Neighborhoods allow for the structured organization of cities, not just from a physical area standpoint, but they play a large role in determining everything from governmental representation to the allocation of municipal resources. Much more than that, “Neighborhoods are the lifeblood of our cities” as Mayor Pugh of Baltimore said last year. Many times, people make decisions on living in cities based on the condition of neighborhoods – their stability, openness, proximity, and aesthetics.
Three key questions that arise from that understanding: If neighborhoods play such an important role in creating vibrant cities, how can they evolve to combat everything from sprawl to lack of resources, and better support human interaction and the needs of the regional community? If we look at the needs at the street-to-street scale as well as the larger neighborhood and district scales, what are the elements needed to make that network stronger and in what ways can we better support the current neighborhood capacity? What do we want South Bend’s neighborhoods to look like?
One step in that process is creating a diverse inventory of physical/environmental and social infrastructure. Identify infrastructure that addresses the different facets of health: spaces for physical health including active and passive recreation, spaces that support mental health and reflection, spaces for socialization, spaces that support spiritual and intellectual health.
- Housing: Is it diverse and does it support growth and transition within the community (Young people moving in, established people moving up, and older people having places to transition to). Much of South Bend’s focus over the last couple of years has been on addressing Vacant and Abandoned Housing and Downtown Housing. Current City Plans can be found here, including some neighborhood plans that address housing (Lincoln Park and Southeast Neighborhoods)
- Green space (along streets). Potential inventories could include a neighborhood Tree Inventory, a comparative study on the amount of yard space available, or an inventory of neighborhood scale rain gardens/stormwater management infrastructure.
- Food opportunities and choices; beyond identifying citywide food-deserts, a food inventory could help address quality and accessibility of those options.
- Shopping (daily needs within neighborhood, weekly needs within district)
- Identifying proximity to a Health Center or Community Center for recreation hall/leisure/art center/healthcare
- Small Parks (neighborhood) Large Parks (district)
- Schools – Primary and Secondary
- Equitable transportation options
- Sidewalks and curb ramp inventory (Currently being addressed through things like the Safe Routes to School Program)
- Bicycle and Transit routes: South Bend Bikeways Plan (see planning link above) and Transpo’s dedicated stop locations will be important conversation to both support and provide insight on how that impacts a connected network across the city. This recent article on the Atlantic’s City Lab blog shows a way that we could better communicate those networks to improve legibility and use.
- Lighting inventory: How does the neighborhood lighting address its scale, coverage, atmosphere?
Often, inventories of this nature are more quantitative than qualitative. One thing that I really appreciated about Portland’s PDX Plan was how they looked to measure important qualitative components, like coverage of green space or how the City could address neighborhood character. Their plan process diagram helped shape the thinking behind this post: portland-plan-process.