Acknowledging that community planning can be contentious and emotional, Place Makers recently shared five principles, or “5 Cs,” that help make neighborhoods healthy:
The idea is that great neighborhoods are connected and compact enough to walk to destinations, include mixed uses so there are destinations to get to, and offer a variety of building and path types. The Place Makers post goes into detail on each point.
All of the ideas are fairly simple in theory, though actually implementing them can be tough.
For example, I’m not sure any neighborhood in Provo really lives up to this criteria. The corner of the Maeser neighborhood that I like to call “the best neighborhood in Provo” is compact enough to walk anywhere in five minutes, but it isn’t particularly complete or complex; almost every structure is a single family or detached home and the destinations — a grocery store, a park, a church — are limited and located on the peripheries. My area of the south Joaquin neighborhood has more density, building types and some limited mixed uses, but it’s even further from basic amenities like grocery stores.
The same could be said for most of Provo’s downtown neighborhoods and the problems intensify further from the center of town. In some more distant Utah County suburbs, neighborhoods have even been designed without any of these principles.
None of this is to say that Provo neighborhoods aren’t wonderful. I like my own neighborhood and many others in the city despite possible shortcomings.
Instead, these steps offer one potential tool for evaluating neighborhood evolution. If someone proposes a new development, for example, or a change in zoning or traffic rules, we might ask how the changes enhance or detract from the neighborhood’s complexity, connectivity, completeness, compactness, and conviviality.
Over the long term, Provo may also have one big advantage: it’s made up of distinct and clearly defined neighborhoods. According to the Place Makers post, neighborhoods may be better suited as planning areas than the more amorphous concept of “community,” so the city may be starting off with a good foundation for improvement.
But in any case, these points help demonstrate that it’s not particularly difficult to begin understanding what makes a neighborhood succeed, or in which direction Provo needs to evolve.