Southern Village field trip

I’ve developed a fascination with the new neighborhoods that are springing up that have a little village of shops and a green attached to fairly dense, uniform housing. We’ve spent a lot of time walking around Port Warwick in Newport News; on Sunday I proposed a field trip to Southern Village, about 30 minutes south of us, just outside of Chapel Hill.

I’m not sure what these neighborhoods are called; some seem to call them Master Planned Communities, and others just call them Mixed Use developments. Neither term quite seems to fit. A Master Planned Community seems to be more on the scale of a town or small city; Mixed Use mainly refers to zoning in urban areas. These places are not really urban.

Southern Village is older than Port Warwick and seems to have been executed better. There’s actually a grocery store (although I noted no pharmacy). There’s a movie theater, doctor’s offices and at least one gym. The eateries are more like what you’d see in a college town – cheaper, slice-of-pizza places. Port Warwick has nothing as practical as a gym or a grocery store; mainly upscale clothing stores for women and sit-down restaurants.

Both have predictable, smooth sidewalks that make walking easy – not like my old neighborhood that has heaved pavement waiting to trip you, or surprise you with a deep puddle, or that ends abruptly, dumping you out on the street in mid-stride. This is why I like walking in these places so much. They also feel extremely safe.

Jason asked me if I’d want to live in Southern Village. Even if we could afford a single family house (we can’t – the prices are astronomical) my answer would be no. It’s too far away from Durham and just didn’t feel right. “These are not my people,” he said, after reviewing the streets almost literally lined with Priuses. I had to agree.

Nevertheless, it’s an excellent place to take the dog. The walking is vigorous but not dangerous, and Reese is the center of attention while camped out at the entry to the grocery store.

The other day while walking around Oyster Point – just across the street from Port Warwick, and sort of a commercial sister to PW – we started imagining the planned community _we’d_ want to live in. Take a block of old buildings in downtown Durham and rehab them. Get the businesses we like on the ground floor – a good coffee shop, used book store, record store, etc. A rock club needs to go in there, some place where movies could also be shown. Get A/V Geeks to come in periodically. Take the 503 South idea, make it safe and pleasant, add residential on top of or around it. Make fast internet an included utility for the residential and blanket it with free wireless in the business areas. Require the residents to participate in a CSA program – rather than an HOA.

Anyway, until such a place magicks itself into existing, I suppose we will continue to explore the Durham sprawl for a new place to live, one day.