Having a Library or Café Down the Block Could Change Your Life - - Daniel Cox and Ryan Streeter for The Atlantic
It begins with this statement:
Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government.
I’m interested in what my readers think of this concept.
I’ve been thinking a lot about walkability lately. I’ve recently found myself driving in more newly-built housing developments in Howard County and I have realized that I always feel sad for neighborhoods without sidewalks. Each house is an island, unconnected to its neighbors, marooned in a sea of McMansions. One is connected to the greater universe solely by automobile.
I think it is safe to say that the people who live in such areas chose them precisely because of what they are and don’t see anything sad about them. But when you read the article in the Atlantic you can see how developments like these would be considered “low-amenity” and contribute to a lack of trust, loneliness, and a decline of faith in local government. There’s no “there” there.
Having a large house set away from the hustle and bustle of the general population is seen by many as a sign of privilege. Enormous lawns, stands of trees for privacy, and long, meandering driveways are viewed as amenities unto themselves. But none of that connects us with humanity.
Many of the things that we lament are missing from our political and social life, such as mutual concern, a sense of belonging, and helpfulness, are found in greater degrees in communities that have a sense of place, or at least enough ingredients to make a well-rounded community.
We all know that Rouse built Columbia with a deliberate intent to connect residents to villages and a sense of community life. We are now experiencing a redefining of what that looks like in the present day, especially in the unfolding of Downtown development.
You may have gotten tired of hearing terms like “mixed use”, “vibrant”, and so on. They often feel like so many slogans in a toothpaste commercial once one has heard them multiple times. In reading the article from the Atlantic I am reminded about why proximity to places of human connection is more than merely a commercial buzzword. It gives us consistent opportunities to be more alive and to be better people.