Neighborhood signs and entryways on the rise

Ron Austin, left, ties steel together for a reinforced concrete pedestal as Anglin Construction Company co-worker Jeff Brown drives a stake next to the footing, pad and pedestal forms for the new Duck Pond Historic Neighborhood entrance at NE 10th Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

Brian W. Kratzer/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 1:38 a.m.

The nationwide trend of using signs, walls, entryways and gates to demarcate neighborhoods is becoming increasingly visible in Gainesville subdivisions, even as sociologists warn of unintended effects.

In Gainesville, neighborhood signs and entryways are becoming popular with not only new developments but also long-standing residential areas.

One of Gainesville's historic subdivisions, the Duck Pond, will soon be delineated from an encroaching commercial area with a $20,000 gateway arch over an entrance into the community.

Both the Apple Tree and Capri neighborhoods won City Beautification Awards last week for additions to their entryways, after spending approximately $15,000 and $9,000, respectively, on upgrades.

And Lincoln Estates, a reviving neighborhood in east Gainesville, used about $7,000 to become one of the few eastside communities with an identifiable sign.

Residents in these neighborhoods say the signs are a community-building source of pride. Sociologists, however, have increasingly criticized the urban planning behind subdivisions designed with an exclusivity mentality.

"There's nothing wrong with delineating a neighborhood. That can be a sign of community pride," said Alice Chasan, editor and associate publisher of Shelterforce Magazine, a nonprofit publication on affordable housing and community building.

However, Chasan cautioned that the more elaborate entryways, ones that stop just short of being gated communities, could carry deeper signals of income segregation.

"The kind of income segregation that is certainly denoted by these communities is a self-imposed segregation," said Chasan, whose publication is based in New Jersey.

The entryway currently being built at the Duck Pond neighborhood has a 12-year history of planning, design and debate among neighbors, neighborhood association president Randy Wells said.

But Wells is quick to emphasize that although the sign might create an entryway, "it certainly was never intended to divide or separate."

Wells said there is a history of people visiting the neighborhood to feed the ducks and enjoy the Sweetwater Branch.

"There are people that come into the neighborhood and use those facilities, and I don't think there's a sense of ‘You don't belong there’," Wells said.

Robert Zdenek, interim director of the National Housing Institute, the nonprofit company over Shelterforce Magazine, said the sense of division is rarely intentional but often done inadvertently as a developer marketing strategy.

"Instead of trying to unify and create a community, it tends to sort of fragment it," Zdenek said. "Amenities and landscaping for a very small area have the effect of fragmenting the community."

Zdenek called signs, walls and gates the "moat mentality," and said it's a growing trend in the United States.

The Capri subdivision was established about 10 years ago by Emmer Development Corporation off NW 34th Street and NW 44th Place, and the neighborhood recently won an award for its landscaping and design around the entryway.

"I think the aesthetics of the entryway are an important part of coming home," said Denise Herfurth, club director at Capri subdivision. "We also feel that it's part of our responsibility to keep things up in the neighborhood. We want people to be happy or proud of their entryway when they come in or have visitors in."

Herfurth said the community is very "close-knit," a result of amenities like the clubhouse, that bring the community in Capri together.

The city of Gainesville makes funds available to communities for improvement to common areas.

John Wachtel, the city's neighborhood planner, said that a number of communities have used the money to improve or build entryways.

"It builds identity. The people feel special or a part of a community," Wachtel said. "The point's been to say we're all in; we are a neighborhood; we'll look out for each


Residents of Apple Tree subdivision off NW 53rd Avenue used $15,000 in money from the city's neighborhood improvement program to enhance the subdivision.

"It's a way to get everyone involved," said Judi Morrow, treasurer of the Apple Tree homeowners association. "I think that people can see that something is being done."

About four years ago, the Lincoln Estates subdivision also received money from the city and used about $7,000 to build a monument-type sign to mark the community.

"That sign solidifies our statement that we are a neighborhood, and as long as we're here, we're going to look out for each other," said Karen Edwards, who headed the committee overseeing construction of the sign.

Megan Rolland can be reached at 352-338-3104.

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