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How We Live: Pocket Neighborhoods

OPB | July 17, 2012 9:06 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 11:46 p.m.

How We Live is our new series exploring how the places people live reflect their beliefs and principles — what the physical space says about the way they live their lives. We began by exploring tiny houses. In this show we’ll talk about co-housing and pocket neighborhoods.

Pocket neighborhoods are a kind of co-housing. Ross Chapin, an architect from Whidbey Island (north of Seattle), coined the term. He describe them like this:

Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around some sort of shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship.

Chapin has designed — and inspired — pocket neighborhoods across the country. He currently has one in development in Manzanita and another established near Gresham.

The local developer Eli Spevak, who was on our show about tiny houses, has built a number of co-housing developments in Portland. He currently has a new one being built in Northeast Portland called Cully Grove.

Whether they’re classified as pocket neighborhoods (usually with less than a dozen homes) or co-housing developments (which may have many more), these neighborhoods have some key things in common, including shared facilities and a neighborhood design that encourages a sense of community. Advocates say children are safer and people develop stronger, more caring relationships when they live this way. 

This show will broadcast live from one of Spevak’s developments — Peninsula Park Commons on Albina Street in Portland. Here are some shots of the space we’ll be in:


And here are some photos taken during the live show at Peninsula Park Commons:


Do you live in a development where you share common space — and perhaps common beliefs — with your neighbors? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks?

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