Pocket Neighborhoods: 9 Things (2024) You Should Know

In a world often dominated by the grandiose, the palatial, and the expanse of sprawling suburbia, there exists a quiet and humble alternative that echoes with a distinct charm and grace – the pocket neighborhood.

This alternative has been gaining traction in recent years, not merely as a buzzword in real estate circles but as a potent antidote to the pervasive isolation of modern living.

Pocket neighborhoods are small, close-knit communities that stand as an alternative to sprawling suburban developments.

They’re more than just a trend.

Instead, they offer a viable solution to the isolation that can come with modern living.

These neighborhoods have the potential to bring us back to our roots, to a time when we knew our neighbors and shared common spaces, fostering a sense of connection that is often lacking in our fast-paced, digital age.

Whether you’re an aspiring homeowner, a real estate enthusiast, or simply curious about this emerging trend, this comprehensive guide is for you.

So, come join us as we take a closer look at pocket neighborhoods, and perhaps challenge our traditional ideas of what a community can be.

1. What Is a Pocket Neighborhood?

A pocket neighborhood is a unique take on residential design and community living, characterized by a cluster of houses (usually around 8 to 12) grouped around a shared common space, like a garden or a courtyard.

This arrangement is a stark contrast to the traditional neighborhood model, where homes are often separated by large yards and fences, and interaction with neighbors can be limited.

In a pocket neighborhood, the architecture and layout are intentionally designed to create interaction, collaboration, and a sense of community among the residents.

The brainchild of architect Ross Chapin, pocket neighborhoods are a throwback to a time when neighborhoods were more than just houses side by side.

Picture a group of charming cottages arranged around a lush, green garden where kids play freely and neighbors gather for evening chats.

The homes themselves are typically smaller, promoting sustainable living.

They are close-knit but not intrusive, allowing for privacy while also encouraging connectivity.

This is the essence of a pocket neighborhood – a place where community is not just a concept, but a daily lived experience.

2. How Are Pocket Neighborhoods Different from Regular Neighborhoods?

When we think of a regular neighborhood, we often picture a series of houses, each in its own fenced-off plot, with maybe a wave or a nod exchanged between neighbors.

Pocket neighborhoods, however, turn this traditional model on its head, and the differences are both physical and social in nature.

Physically, the most apparent distinction lies in the layout and design.

In a regular neighborhood, houses typically stand-alone, each within its own defined space.

In contrast, homes in a pocket neighborhood are intentionally clustered around a common area, like a courtyard or garden.

The houses themselves tend to be smaller, promoting a minimalist, environmentally friendly lifestyle that contrasts with the larger-than-life homes found in typical suburban neighborhoods.

Pocket neighborhoods often lack the wide streets and driveways that characterize regular neighborhoods.

Instead, parking is usually relegated to the periphery, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment that encourages residents to walk and interact with their surroundings and neighbors.

Socially, the differences are just as profound.

Pocket neighborhoods are built with community and interaction at their core.

They are designed to facilitate and encourage regular, casual encounters among neighbors, promoting a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

This is markedly different from regular neighborhoods where, despite the proximity, many residents may barely know their neighbors.

Privacy, too, is handled differently in a pocket neighborhood.

While homes in a regular neighborhood may be separated by fences or large yards, pocket neighborhoods strike a delicate balance.

They are designed to offer both privacy and community, with private spaces in each home and shared spaces for communal interaction.

Lastly, sustainability is often more emphasized in pocket neighborhoods.

The smaller homes, shared resources, and community gardens all promote a lifestyle that’s more in harmony with the environment, contrasting with the resource-heavy lifestyles often associated with regular neighborhoods.

3. Examples Of Pocket Neighborhoods

bulletConover Commons in Redmond, Washington

One stellar example of a pocket neighborhood is the Conover Commons in Redmond, Washington.

This development, designed by Ross Chapin, the architect who popularized the concept, consists of a dozen homes grouped around a shared garden.

The houses are charming, two-story cottages, each with a private backyard, while the shared garden in the center serves as a gathering place for residents.

Conover Commons embodies the essence of a pocket neighborhood, building a sense of community and neighborliness often lacking in traditional residential developments.

bulletDanielson Grove in Kirkland, Washington

Another notable example is Danielson Grove in Kirkland, Washington.

Also the creation of architect Ross Chapin, Danielson Grove consists of 16 houses that are grouped into four clusters, each of which shares a common green space.

The homes are designed in the Craftsman style, each with its own private yard, while the common green spaces provide areas for neighbors to gather, children to play, and the community to thrive.

The design of Danielson Grove is an excellent embodiment of the principles of a pocket neighborhood, promoting both individual privacy and a strong sense of community.

bulletEliot Tower in Portland, Oregon

While completely unlike the previous examples, the Eliot Tower in Portland, Oregon is another example of a pocket community.

Although not a typical pocket neighborhood consisting of individual houses, it still embodies the principle of shared community spaces.

This high-rise residential building features communal areas like a library, a kitchen, and a garden terrace.

Residents enjoy the benefits of living in a close-knit community within a bustling city, proving that the principles of pocket neighborhoods can be applied even in dense urban settings.

4. Typical Characteristics and Design Principles of a Micro Neighborhood

Delving into the heart of pocket neighborhoods requires an understanding of the characteristics and design principles that distinguish these unique spaces.

While we’ve touched upon their core premise of encouraging community and connectivity, the architectural and social nuances are worth exploring further.

Here are some of the key characteristics and design principles that set pocket neighborhoods apart:

bulletSmall Cluster of Houses: Pocket neighborhoods are typically composed of a small number of homes, usually ranging from 8 to 12.

This limited size encourages close-knit relationships among residents.

bulletShared Common Space: At the heart of every pocket neighborhood is a shared common space, such as a garden or courtyard.

This communal area serves as the hub of social interaction and community-building activities.

bulletPedestrian-Oriented Design: These neighborhoods emphasize pedestrian access over vehicular.

Parking spaces are often situated on the periphery, creating a walkable, safe environment for residents, including children and the elderly.

bulletScale and Proximity: The houses in pocket neighborhoods are built on a human scale.

They are close enough to create a sense of community, yet far enough to ensure privacy.

This balance is crucial to the success of a pocket neighborhood.

bulletArchitectural Harmony: While individual homes may vary slightly in design, there is usually a consistent architectural theme that brings harmony to the neighborhood, creating a unified, visually pleasing aesthetic.

bulletSustainability: Pocket neighborhoods often incorporate eco-friendly design principles, such as smaller, energy-efficient homes, shared resources, and community gardens.

bulletPrivacy and Community Balance: Through thoughtful design, pocket neighborhoods offer private spaces for individual households while promoting interaction in shared common areas.

bulletCommunity Facing Active Rooms: Active rooms such as living rooms and kitchens, including porches, are usually designed to face the common space.

This cultivates community interaction while promoting a sense of openness.

However, privacy is also meticulously preserved through strategic window placements and careful layering of public and private spaces.

bulletLocal Integration: Pocket neighborhoods are not standalone entities.

They are designed to blend into the larger neighborhood or city seamlessly, integrating with local shops, parks, and schools.

bulletVarious Architectural Styles: They can range from Craftsman cottages and contemporary designs to Spanish Mission styles or even Modern Modular.

These communities can encompass detached single-family homes, attached townhomes, or clusters of urban apartments, proving the flexibility and adaptability of the pocket neighborhood concept.

Understanding these characteristics and design principles can provide valuable insights into the appeal of pocket neighborhoods and their growing popularity in the realm of real estate and urban planning.

5. Who Are Pocket Neighborhoods For?

At their core, pocket neighborhoods celebrate the concept of community living.

Their appeal, however, is not confined to any one demographic.

The unique blend of privacy and community, along with a focus on sustainability and minimalist living, makes these neighborhoods attractive to a diverse range of people.

Here’s a look at who might find pocket neighborhoods particularly appealing:

bulletDownsizers: Those looking to simplify their lives by moving into a smaller home will find pocket neighborhoods an excellent choice.

The smaller homes are easier to manage, and the shared resources can lead to cost savings.

bulletFirst-Time Home Buyers: Pocket neighborhoods can be an ideal starting point for first-time home buyers looking to start small.

bulletEco-Conscious Individuals: The sustainable design principles of pocket neighborhoods, from energy-efficient homes to shared gardens, attract those who prioritize eco-friendly living.

bulletRetirees: The close-knit community, pedestrian-friendly design, and manageable home sizes make pocket neighborhoods a great option for retirees.

bulletSingle Parents and Small Families: The sense of community and shared spaces can be a boon for single parents and small families, offering a supportive environment for raising children.

bulletUrban Professionals: For those who appreciate the convenience of city living but crave a stronger sense of community, pocket neighborhoods offer a blend of both.

bulletPeople Craving Community: Anyone feeling isolated in the anonymity of a large city or sprawling suburbia can find a sense of belonging in a pocket neighborhood.

In essence, pocket neighborhoods are for anyone drawn to the idea of living in a closely-knit, supportive community while still maintaining a level of personal privacy.

Their design principles cater to a broad spectrum of individuals, making them a versatile option in today’s diverse housing market.

6. What Are The Benefits Of These Neighborhoods?

Pocket neighborhoods are rapidly emerging as a sought-after alternative to traditional residential layouts, thanks to the myriad of benefits they offer.

Their unique design and focus on community living bring advantages that span social, environmental, and lifestyle aspects.

Here’s a look at some of the major benefits:

bulletCommunity Engagement: With their shared common spaces and small size, pocket neighborhoods naturally encourage social interaction and foster a strong sense of community.

Residents can easily get to know their neighbors, leading to friendships, shared activities, and mutual support.

bulletSecurity: There’s a certain level of security that comes from living in a tight-knit community where neighbors look out for each other.

This can be especially reassuring for families with young children or older residents.

bulletEnvironmental Friendliness: The smaller, energy-efficient homes and shared resources in pocket neighborhoods can significantly reduce environmental impact.

Shared green spaces also encourage eco-friendly activities, such as composting or gardening.

bulletReduced Traffic: By keeping cars and traffic away from shared spaces, pocket neighborhoods offer a safer environment for pedestrians, particularly children and elderly residents.

bulletHealth and Wellness: The design of pocket neighborhoods encourages walking and outdoor activities, which can have positive effects on physical and mental health.

bulletShared Maintenance: In many pocket neighborhoods, the maintenance of shared spaces is divided among residents, reducing individual workload and creating a sense of shared responsibility.

bulletAffordability: Smaller homes and shared amenities often mean pocket neighborhoods are more affordable than traditional neighborhoods with larger houses.

7. What Are The Limitations?

Despite the numerous benefits, pocket neighborhoods may not be the perfect fit for everyone.

Certain inherent characteristics could pose challenges or limitations for potential residents.

Here, are some potential drawbacks:

bulletLimited Privacy: Although pocket neighborhoods are designed to balance community and privacy, the close proximity of homes and shared spaces might feel restrictive for those accustomed to more private living conditions.

bulletSmaller Living Spaces: The homes in pocket neighborhoods are generally smaller than those in traditional neighborhoods.

While this supports a minimalist lifestyle, it may not suit larger families or those desiring more spacious accommodations.

bulletLess Autonomy: The shared responsibility for common spaces can mean less individual control over certain aspects of your home and neighborhood.

Decisions regarding shared spaces are typically made collectively, which may not align with every resident’s personal preference.

bulletNoise and Disturbance: The close-knit nature of these communities can occasionally lead to noise and disturbances from neighbors, potentially impacting the quiet enjoyment of one’s home.

bulletLimited Availability: As of now, pocket neighborhoods are not as widely available as traditional neighborhoods.

Depending on the location, finding a pocket neighborhood to move into could be a challenge.

bulletResale Considerations: Given their unique nature, selling a home in a pocket neighborhood could present challenges.

Potential buyers must be interested in the community lifestyle, which may limit the pool of interested parties.

However, due to the popularity of these homes, some pocket neighborhood homes have watchlists where people can sign up to be the first to know when these houses are put up for sale.

While these communities are an innovative solution to many of the challenges facing traditional neighborhoods, they may not be the ideal choice for everyone.

Understanding the potential limitations alongside the benefits is key to making an informed decision about whether this unique approach to community living is the right fit for you.

8. Why Are Pocket Neighborhoods Important for Affordable Houses?

Pocket neighborhoods are emerging as a critical component in the pursuit of affordable housing solutions.

Their small-scale, community-oriented design allows for the efficient use of land, translating into lower construction costs per unit.

Moreover, shared amenities such as gardens and communal spaces mean that individual homes can be smaller and less expensive, without sacrificing quality of life.

In essence, pocket neighborhoods offer an innovative approach to housing that prioritizes community and sustainability without the hefty price tag often associated with traditional residential properties.

They provide a viable path to homeownership for many who might otherwise be priced out of the housing market, making them an important part of the solution to our current affordability crisis.

9. How Much Does a Home In A Pocket Neighborhood Cost?

The cost of a home in a pocket neighborhood can vary significantly based on factors such as location, the number of units, the quality of shared amenities, and the overall real estate market in the area.

On average, homes in these communities tend to be more affordable than their counterparts in traditional neighborhoods, primarily due to their smaller size and shared resources.

However, it’s important to note that not all pocket neighborhoods fall into the affordable category.

Some, particularly those offering high-end, cottage-style homes in sought-after locations, have gained popularity and can command much higher prices.

Therefore, potential buyers should be aware of this range and explore various options to find a pocket neighborhood that fits their budget and lifestyle needs.

Final Thoughts

From building a vibrant community spirit to promoting a greener lifestyle, the benefits of pocket neighborhoods are manifold.

They offer an innovative approach to modern living that’s rooted in traditional values of community and sustainability.

The rise of pocket neighborhoods signifies a shift in how we perceive and experience residential living, promising a future that’s more connected, sustainable, and affordable.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


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