A Simple Path to Strong Neighborhoods

Author Jay Walljasper Shows How Small Efforts Build Community

Dave Hage of the Star Tribune has a Q&A session with Jay Walljasper, author of the The Great Neighborhood Book, about how strong neighborhoods are the building blocks of great cities and a healthy society.

Q. So what makes a great neighborhood?

A. The first fundamental is a public gathering spot — a park, a little town square, even a bench in front of the corner grocery store. You want a place where people know they’re likely to run into someone they know or meet someone they like.

The second is walkability. It’s really hard to build a sense of community when you know your neighbors only by waving at them through the windshield or honking at them as you drive by.

The key is to promote spontaneous, informal encounters — that’s the building block of strong communities.

But here’s another, simpler way to think about it: When you create a neighborhood that’s friendly to dogs, it’s friendly to people, too. The traffic is not speeding and dangerous. There are green places to hang out and walk. So dogs are a good indicator species.

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