Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sometimes you can be ahead of the curve

I was looking at the December issue of Planning, the monthly magazine of the American Planning Association (APA), and saw the article about some alternate uses for the ubiquitous front loading garage. The author is suggesting that they be used for some type of storefront of a home-based business. Shades of Homer Simpson, when he decided to make money by being a marrying preacher, and ran a marriage chapel out of his attached garage. Was Homer ahead of the curve?

The term "bedroom community" has been around for a while now and has been used to refer to smaller suburban town some distance from the main city, but this is the first I've heard of drive-through sleeping quarters. The author implies that a majority of people buy large houses, with big yards (although a lot of them are on postage stamp sized lots), just to spend very few hours in them, mainly just sleeping. The actual living is done elsewhere. There are some families that do not even use their front door. The come home, drive into the garage and shut the automatic door.(Unless the garage becomes the storage space for something other than the car)

Under Suzan Tobin's scenario the garage could become like the old "live above the store" concept that has survived in the rest of the world for centuries. This would just be live beside where you work or walk to work while serving the neighborhood. Its done in many small towns all around the world. A local merchant peddling his wares to his neighbors and buying what he needs from them. One of them a baker, one a candle maker, one who makes soap, etc. Other vendors would also be there with products and services like books cafes and specialty grocers. It sounds a whole lot like some of the self contained Orthodox Jewish communities near New York

This also sounds like a recommendation of my fellow "peak oil" blogger I mentioned earlier this month. Her letter containing the ideas is found here and this would be number 14. By having the goods and services within walking distance the use of fossil fuels is reduced and the community becomes more sustainable. By allowing neighbors to interact in a social setting the community becomes safer. Is my friend also ahead of the curve?

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