I love the web site for “The Waters,” a real estate development outside Montgomery, Alabama. It’s all about community. They have multiple videos about community there, and they even have one called “A Kid’s Paradise” where numerous parents and kids talk about what a great life kids have there.
In that video, one mother says, “It’s a horrible, horrible day if [they] don’t play with friends.” Wow…
Presuming that this video is an accurate representation – and I plan to visit to see how accurate it really is – the obvious question is, how has The Waters come to be such a Kid’s Paradise, and is there a formula used there that can be repeated for other neighborhoods?The Waters is a planned community that follows “New Urbanist principles. New Urbanism is an urban design movement that attempts, among other things, to build communities where people walk outside of their homes and associate with one another.
So, these communities are designed to be “walkable,” with homes close together, and with automobile access de-emphasized. They attempt to draw residents outside to pedestrian walkways, common areas and facilities.
It’s interesting to think that the problem of lack of community in American neighborhoods in general, and the lack of children’s outdoor play in particular, can be solved by urban planning techniques.
What about all the culprits for lack of children’s play that we’ve talked about here on Playborhood – parents’ fears of letting their children roam outside, children’s addiction to TV and videogames and the Internet, or overscheduled kids? Would a new urbanist community totally erase these factors?
Of course, it wouldn’t, but perhaps it would create such an enticing environment for play that these factors would be at least partially neutralized. Perhaps, given the right physical setting, outdoor play can at least compete with videogames and organized sports.
I’m pretty sure New Urbanist communities like The Waters aren’t the total solution, but I’d sure like to be convinced that they get us halfway there. So, I’ll be traveling out to Montgomery to find out for myself in February.