Trying to Figure Out the Size and Boundaries for a Portland Village: What’s “Just Right”?

Last night was the first parlor meeting for the Village PDX  project.   Seven smart, interesting, inquisitive folks showed up and we had a wonderful discussion with lots of insightful comments and questions.   So a great way to kick-off the first of 5 parlor meetings happening over the next 3 weeks.  The parlor meetings on 4/15 and 4/19 are already full, but if you’re interested in attending either the Sunday 4/22 at 3pm or Thursday 5/3 at 7pm parlor meetings, there’s still some space. Just email us at info@villagepdx.org to RSVP and get directions.

One of the questions that comes up the most wherever we talk about the village project is some variation on “How big will the village be?” and “Will there be more than one village in Portland?” and “How do you decide where the village boundaries should be?”

We know from talking to the founders of some of the existing villages on the East Coast that they have been expanding their villages’ boundaries to include surrounding neighborhoods/ townships.  But I don’t know how to apply that information to thinking about villages here in Portland.

Next Monday, we will be talking to one of the founders of the NEST village in Seattle, which just opened earlier this year. So that got me thinking, maybe they have something on the NEST website about how they decided about their boundaries that would help me explain “village size/boundaries” better?   Here’s what I found:

Q: What neighborhoods are included in NEST?

A: The boundaries are the ship canal north to NE 110th, and I-5 to Lake Washington.  This includes the Bryant, Hawthorne Hills, Inverness, Laurelhurst, Maple Leaf, Matthews Beach, Meadowbrook, Ravenna, Roosevelt, Sandpoint, University District, View Ridge, Wedgwood, and Windermere neighborhoods. [14 total]

Q: Why not include all of Seattle?

A: The richness of the village concept is that it is rooted in a given geographic area and engages residents of all ages to volunteer in their neighborhood.  If the area is too large, the power of building neighborly connections is lost.  We hope that NEST can inspire other areas of Seattle to develop their own village and we could work collaboratively to build a supportive network.  Currently, there is discussion at the Phinney Neighborhood Center (NW Seattle) and on Bainbridge Island about starting such villages.

via NEST faq.

So, the long and the short of it seems to be: “The richness of the village concept is that it is rooted in a given geographic area and engages residents of all ages to volunteer in their neighborhood.  If the area is too large, the power of building neighborly connections is lost. ”  On the other hand, as we have learned from our talks with some of the village founders, if the geographic area is too small, there  may not be enough interested residents to join the village and keep it going.  Which makes this all sound more than a little like Goldilock’s search for the “just right” sized bed.

I know there are approximately12,000 residents aged 65-plus in the section of Seattle that will be served by the NEST village.  So population may be one way to look at it.  I also know that existing resources for seniors available in the area factor in.  Maybe printing out  a map of Seattle so I can see how much of the city the NEST village will encompass would help?

If you have suggestions about how to think about this–or explain it better—please let me know!

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