SALISBURY — Road-intensive housing subdivisions have become an ingrained part of suburban life over the past decades of real estate development, and those living outside large cities probably can’t imagine anything else. But a new, gentler, less car-intense and more pedestrian-focused development that’s been popular on the West Coast for years has made it cross country— and landed in Salisbury.
Known generically as a “pocket neighborhood,” the Village at Salisbury Square is among the first of this kind of subdivision to be built in the state, and it’s in the early stages of construction on a 6-acre lot located behind Pat’s Diner.
Built by Steve Paquette and Peter Lee, the latest innovation in residential living will be accessed at 12 Beach Road and will be within walking distance to Salisbury Square. The plan calls for 30 new homes, plus one existing home, on 5.94 acres. The development maintains 65 percent open space, allowing a number of small greens with abutting homes around the lot.
“In the past, subdivisions have been planned around cars,” Paquette said. “All the homes faced the street, with garages right there. In pocket neighborhoods, the fronts of the homes face each other across a green space. The intent is to restore pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.”
While in traditional subdivisions, a substantial portion of land is paved to accommodate roads, and houses abut the street as activities take place in backyards and on back decks, in pocket neighborhoods, the concept is different. Large front porches play important roles. In front of the homes, sidewalks link the dwellings, not streets.
Conceptualized by Seattle-based architect Ross Chapin, Paquette said, pocket neighborhoods have flourished on the West Coast for many years.
“They’re just arriving on the East Coast, he said. “We have been absorbed with the concept for well over two years now and I believe it is more reminiscent of the neighborhoods a lot of us grew up in but can’t find anymore.”
A real estate developer, this is Paquette’s first pocket neighborhood subdivision.
Salisbury assistant town planner Leah Hill said the plan is non-traditional, but interesting.
“It clusters homes around little greens,” Hill said. “So it creates small neighborhoods within the larger neighborhoods.”
Garages are incorporated into the development, Paquette said, but are located in the back, where they’re accessed off small alleyways.
According to the marketing literature, the Village at Salisbury Square will hold 27 single-family homes and four duplexes. They’ll range from 1,260 square feet to 1,640 square feet. Twenty-six will be three-bedroom units and four will have two bedrooms. Currently, they’re priced between $290,000 and $369,000, Paquette said.
This type of development is possible in Salisbury because of zoning created years ago in the Salisbury Square area, Hill said. Most of this acreage is in the Village Residential Overlay District, with a small portion in the southwest corner in the Village Center District.
Approved by Town Meeting in 2006, both of these zoning districts surround Salisbury Square. The zoning allows more housing density on the land than the two-acre lot method.