American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 823-851

First online:

Fertile Ground for Community: Inner-City Neighborhood Common Spaces

  • Frances E. KuoAffiliated withUniversity of Illinois Email author 
  • , William C. SullivanAffiliated withUniversity of Illinois
  • , Rebekah Levine ColeyAffiliated withUniversity of Chicago
  • , Liesette BrunsonAffiliated withUniversity of Illinois

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Research suggests that the formation of neighborhood social ties (NSTs) may substantially depend on the informal social contact which occurs in neighborhood common spaces, and that in inner-city neighborhoods where common spaces are often barren no-man's lands, the presence of trees and grass supports common space use and informal social contact among neighbors. We found that for 145 urban public housing residents randomly assigned to 18 architecturally identical buildings, levels of vegetation in common spaces predict both use of common spaces and NSTs; further, use of common spaces mediated the relationship between vegetation and NSTS. In addition, vegetation and NSTs were significantly related to residents' senses of safety and adjustment. These findings suggest that the use and characteristics of common spaces may play a vital role in the natural growth of community, and that improving common spaces may be an especially productive focus for community organizing efforts in inner-city neighborhoods.

neighborhood social ties environmental variables sense of community neighboring