New Urbanisim: There goes the neighborhood - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New Urbanisim: There goes the neighborhood

There's a movement  across the country called 'new urbanism.' There's a movement across the country called 'new urbanism.'

We have a question for you. Do you know your neighbors? Have you ever met them? Do you know their names? All too many of us would have to answer no, but there's a movement  across the country to change that. It's something called "new urbanism," and in many ways it's a case of Back to the Future.

Just ask Derek and Brandi Hasley. They're going for a walk with their dog, and in the village of Providence in Madison County, that's a significant occurrence.

"Of all the places we've lived, this is the one community where we have gotten to know more of our neighbors," Derek said.

"I think the goal is to get the community more involved," Brandi added.

Whether they know it or not, the Hasleys are part of a rapidly-growing trend called new urbanism.

Communities, like Providence, are sprouting up across the country with an emphasis on community and convenience, and what you see in Providence from a construction standpoint is definitely new urbanism - right down to the last detail. From the sidewalks, which are very closely located to the houses; and the houses are built very close together.

You don't see any signs of garages or vehicles. The emphasis is on the front yard, and along those lines, you see a lot of big front porches, which are a social gathering spot.

"Real or not, this evokes a kind of sentimental vision of a society where you know all your neighbors. You feel comfortable with them. You trust them. You can let your kids run around outside and you feel okay about that," said Dr. Mitch Berbriar.

Berbriar knows all about the components of new urbanism. He compares it to TV's mythical town of Mayberry - the way things used to be several decades ago.

Without knowing it, our 20-something couple the Hasleys know about it as well - not just in a sense of community, but a sense of convenience as well.

Everything in the village of Providence is self contained: from doctors, dentists, hair stylists, a school, parks, restaurants.

"It's all walkable. That's one of the favorite things we like of the neighborhood," said Brandi.

It's like going back in time, and that's very evident as you browse this community. Vehicles and garages and driveways are hidden. There's a very real de-emphasis on driving, with an emphasis on walking, seeing your neighbors, and socializing.

This is all a direct contrast to what happened in the 70's, 80's and 90's, and it seems to be forcing people to meet their neighbors.

"It's not forcing people to do anything that they don't want to; it's facilitating and encouraging," Berbriar said.

He said studies show these kinds of social connections with your neighbors serve as a long-term buffer against life's difficulties, such as tragedies, deaths, divorces.

"We all want to have this sense of community in part because that makes us feel more comfortable and happy in our lives," he said.

For the Hasleys and the other families turning to this lifestyle, it's not about sociological theories or trending construction techniques. It's about finding peace and happiness.

"We have found that's a real blessing, not just being close and getting involved with the neighborhood and knowing your neighbors, but the fact that we can walk to dinner, go to the dog park," Derek said.

Turning back the clock and rediscovering there really is no place like home.

One of the developers of the village of Providence said they were well aware of this concept of new urbanism years ago. They were obviously well ahead of the trend when they first drew up the designs in 2002, and had people first moving into Providence in 2004.

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