Neighborhood Guide

Charlotte's First Pocket Neighborhood


Kayla Dugger


Community. Since the dawn of time, it’s what we homo sapiens are all about, right? Give us that fire, those chants, maybe some berries to forage, and we’re in it to win it…together. 

Well, we were. 

By now it’s a cliche that technology has brought us closer together yet farther apart than ever before. Toss in the remnants of suburbia’s conquest and the mantras of ‘be an individual’ and you have a deliciously bitter cocktail for isolated life.

Goes down smooth, doesn’t it?

But there’s gotta be a way to meet halfway. To dance with the good things the modern world has brought us but still intertwine our own worlds with each other’s. To build something new anchored around the timeless need of community.

Enter pocket neighborhoods. 

Think about those words right there. Pocket - tiny, cozy, able to be kept by your side. If we were Danish, we might say hygge.

Neighborhoods. You’re knit. There’s kindness. There’s trust. Jeez, you actually know each other’s names. You’re out of oregano, and two houses down you’re not afraid to ask.

Pocket neighborhoods update perhaps the most basic living concept ever. 

Let’s break it down.

Architect Ross Chapin coined the term and collaborated with Jim Soules, founder of The Cottage Company, to build the first pocket neighborhood in Washington State. This was only in 1996, just one year after Mariah Carey dropped the smash hit “Fantasy”. Living in a pocket neighborhood for many can be seen as a dream…as a fantasy, if you will.

Houses are on the smaller side and face the common land area, which is the fulcrum of the neighborhood. Like Cheers, everybody knows your name. People are more woven into each other’s lives; haven’t you always hoped for a neighbor who’d walk Foofoo the Pomeranian when you’re off to your Tuesday night yoga class and wine? 

And sharing is caring in pocket neighborhoods. I mean, why would you scurry off to the grocery store when you have fresh and crisp tomatoes in the community garden? I mean, c’mon, just close your eyes and hear that tomato pop. 

And traffic ain’t no thang. Residents usually park their cars away from their homes in an attached lot, a teensy stroll to their door. On their way to their lovely house, they pass Pam the retired gym teacher reading on her front porch, Zeb the enthusiastic teenager practicing his juggling, and Molly and Jake, the young parents relaxing outside while listening at a reasonable volume to their favorite oldies which include, you guessed it, Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”. 

As they reminisce to their tunes, their toddler runs around in the beautiful yard. And, she’s actually free to do this without worries…no cars and watchful eyes everywhere because the whole neighborhood looks out for you, kiddo.

And after a long day at the office, where you had to fish your stapler out of jello for the third time this month, you can go home to cozy privacy in your cozy neighborhood. Houses are designed with windows that don’t peer into the next home.

For the right person, pocket neighborhoods are what they’ve been looking for all along.