What makes a great neighbourhood? Do we have any in Bermuda? A recent move from a relatively isolated house on top of a hill to a location where we have neighbours we can reach out and touch, made me ponder these two questions.
I came to the conclusion that, while the elements that make a great neighbourhood make sense, we don't really have any in Bermuda that are completely fully formed. What we call 'neighbourhoods' in Bermuda are really residential subdivisions.
The American Planning Association (APA) has a 'Great Places in America' programme, which "...celebrates places of exemplary character, quality, and planning." It spotlights great streets, great neighbourhoods and great public spaces with winners in each category selected each year.
For 'Great Neighbourhoods' there is a list of characteristics that includes:
- has a variety of functi'.onal attributes that contribute to a resident's day-to-day living (i.e. residential, commercial or mixed uses),
- accommodates multi-modal transportation (i.e. pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers),
- has design and architectural features that are visually interesting,
- encourages human contact and social activities,
- promotes community involvement and maintains a secure environment,
- promotes sustainability and responds to climatic demands, and,
- has a memorable character.
Pretty lofty list. Uptown Oakland, CA (pictured above) was one winner; for other 2014 winners in the Great Neighbourhoods category, click here.
And how does Bermuda compare? Well, taking into account scale, population, land mass, etc., probably the central Town of St. George or North-east Hamilton come closest to being a 'proper' neighbourhoods. Those locales win out over, say, Flatt's Village or Somerset Village, because of that crucial element of human contact. There is a sense of neighbours knowing neighbours, which, combined with the other characteristics that apply, such as everyday functionality, memorable character and architectural heritage, make these communities of enormous potential, and something quite unlike my new 'neighbourhood.