Connecting To And Building Community

An affordable housing project should be an integral part of its surrounding neighborhood and add value to the community fabric. The building should be placed to contribute to the character of the street, and if possible include a community space, daycare, small store, or other facility that can be used by members of the greater community. Projects that include joint use of facilities, such as a recreation facility shared by residents and a nearby school, help add to the integration of the residents with the surrounding community. Such projects also reduce the need to develop other facilities nearby that serve duplicative uses.

The walking or cycling route to the nearest community services and transportation stop should be identified, to ensure a safe path of travel to and from the development. A general rule of thumb is that people will walk fifteen minutes or a quarter mile to a bus stop, and thirty minutes or a half mile to a subway or commuter rail line.

The safety of residents should be given serious consideration so that security measures and green strategies do not conflict. For example, if residents keep their windows closed for fear of intruders, natural ventilation strategies are negated. To reconcile these competing concerns, locate exterior circulation and outdoor areas to be visible from within buildings; orient kitchens, living rooms, or laundry facilities toward courtyards so residents can keep an eye on public areas; provide one or two designated entrances so that staff and residents are able to monitor who enters and leaves the building; and design hallways, stairways, and other common spaces to be easily observable from the exterior. If necessary, install security screens on ground-floor windows and doors so residents can benefit from natural ventilation without sacrificing security. Consider providing playground equipment or community garden plots—giving residents reasons to use common spaces and providing a method of building community among the residents. Most importantly, take cues from surrounding buildings to identify successful ways to handle security concerns.


Chestnut Court (West Oakland, California) BRIDGE Housing Corporation

Located in West Oakland, Chestnut Court is a HOPE VI project that uses careful site design and programming to fit into and enhance its urban neighborhood. Completed in May 2003 by BRIDGE Housing Corporation, the one-block project consists of 72 new residential units in flats as well as townhomes located above mixed-use spaces including retail, community services, and childcare. The design of the site and community spaces increases the sense of community through numerous details. A new private street connects pedestrians to tuck-under parking as well as common outdoor spaces, including a playground and basketball court. The aesthetic of the surrounding industrial and loft neighborhood of busy Grand Avenue is echoed through large windows, corrugated metal siding, and exposed concrete piers. Adjacent small private homes are acknowledged through a smaller scale of buildings on the side streets. Access to public transportation is easy, as Chestnut Court is located at two major bus thoroughfares.

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