Can you name all 22 of the officially recognized neighborhoods in Boston?
Go ahead and try. I’ll wait. (And don’t cheat by looking at the graphic below.)
How many did you get? 10? 15? All 22? If you got all 22 on your first try, well done. It took me a while to get them all. No disrespect to anyone who lives there, but I always forget Roslindale.
For those of you who didn’t get 22, here is the list: Allston, Brighton, Fenway/Kenmore, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury, the South End, South Boston, Back Bay, Bay Village, Chinatown, Beacon Hill, Downtown, the West End, the North End, Charlestown, and East Boston.
These neighborhoods all have official boundaries, but the primary thing those boundaries do is designate parking for residents. Each neighborhood has its own character or identity to an extent, but there is a lot of blending at the edges.
And beyond that, someone who lives in one neighborhood doesn’t only experience the city within those neighborhood confines. I live in the South End, but when I need groceries I venture either to Fenway/Kenmore or the Back Bay (or sometimes even across the river to Cambridge).
My experience of Boston is a mix of neighborhoods, and the areas I frequent have formed into a personal neighborhood. This is the part of the city that I spend most of my time in and that I know better than the rest of the city.
So what does my personal neighborhood look like? Something like this:
I live near the corner of Tremont and Mass. Ave. in the South End, but my neighborhood isn’t just the South End, and it’s not even the entirety of the South End. There’s an area of a few blocks which I think of as being my campus (the red area above). Basically, if I need to run an errand and can do so within this area, I can do it within 5 minutes or less.
Then there are the paths I take to get groceries, either at Trader Joe’s on Boylston, the Shaw’s at the Prudential or the Whole Foods near Symphony Hall (the green area above). These are streets I know well, but I never venture off to the sides since I’m focused on remembering what I need to buy. Going back to the area closer to my house, there is a bigger area within which I dine out most regularly and generally spend the most time in, walking from place to place, or traveling through on my way to and from work (the gray area above). And finally, there’s my SoWa seasonal expansion. In the warmer weather, my neighborhood grows to incorporate the SoWa weekly outdoor market.
So what does any of this mean in a larger context? First, my experience is unique to me. My neighborhood may overlap with yours, but we may be going to the same area for totally different reasons.
Second, this ability to provide each of its residents a unique experience is what makes a city amazing, and it’s why mixing different uses and people is so important. Would my life be easier if the grocery stories I preferred were all next door? Sure, but that would also be an incredibly boring neighborhood and I wouldn’t want to live there.
Finally, this notion of a personal neighborhood also sheds light on why some people can be so resistant to change. People become attached to what is comfortable, so to change that makes them uncomfortable. This is something that is extremely important for developers within the City to be aware of, and why community input is so important. Only the people on the ground really know the feel of the neighborhood.
Check back later for more neighborhoods from the rest of the FBA family.
– Nick Downing, Future Boston Program Manager