Pocket Neighborhoods for Special Niches


Luna Azul community for adults with disabilities features two pocket neighborhood clusters connected to the Center House with a linear walkway.

We are currently working on a new community to provide safe and permanent housing for adults with intellectual, developmental and acquired disabilities. Over the years we’ve helped create pocket neighborhoods for singles and empty nesters, market-rate multi-generational buyers and folks needing affordable housing. When developer Mark Roth approached us about creating a safe and supportive pocket neighborhood for disabled adults like his daughter, we were all for it. “Few options exist today for adults with disabilities, or for their families,” says Roth. “Pocket neighborhoods are a great concept and already popular, especially among adults seeking greater energy efficiencies in their homes and more intimate community living and support systems.”

Builder Online posted an article with more background and information on the proposed community, named Luna Azul.

Concept Plan Luna AzulThe site Roth has chosen is in the Phoenix metro area—a very different climate condition and cultural heritage than most sites we work with. For this, we’ve developed vernacular design elements and materials familiar with the region. We’re incorporating deep arcades, trellised ramadas and fountains. Fundamentally, though, the community includes many of the design bones we’ve used in virtually all of our pocket neighborhoods: small clusters, shared commons at the heart, corralled cars, layers of personal space, room-sized front porch, private back yard, nested houses, and more.

Birdsys C3Holding the center between two clustered pocket neighborhoods (30 dwellings total) is the Center House, with community gathering spaces, exercise center, offices, and guest spaces. In the courtyard will be a pool and patio, covered outdoor room with a fireplace, and lawn.

Living in this community will be some residents who, because of their disabilities, are prone to wander. For this reason, there is a complete perimeter wall for their safety. We generally don’t like gated communities; however, in this case, it’s required. A guest coming to visit will first see the front of the two-story Center House—appearing like a gracious larger home. It is decidedly non-institutional. Cars tuck into a small lot shielded with a landscaped berm. To the side, in as non-descript manor as possible, a drive angles off to a gate. On the looped drive are parallel, pull-in and carport parking spaces for residents’ families, guests and service providers.

Birdseye C1The housing clusters, while similar, are laid out with differentiating elements. For spatial clarity, especially for residents with autism, a central linear walkway ties the pocket neighborhoods through the Center House.

—Ross Chapin

6 thoughts on “Pocket Neighborhoods for Special Niches

  1. Mary Bloom

    I just discovered your blog and think this idea is GREAT ! I wonder how the project is coming? On another note how about a community for disabled adults like myself who has physical impairments. In my case it’s because of a neuropathy.

    Lately trying to buy a house I see that meeting my needs although not extensive is hard to find if not impossible. No stairs, flat yards, non-slippery floors, walk in showers, those types of things.

    I live in New York State north of New York City by 2 hours. I won’t go on an on but have to say I love your ideas and your designs. I wish you were here to build me a small house. If you have any ideas I would love to hear from you.

    Thanks for caring about the rest of us,

    Mary Bloom

  2. Cyndi Renicker

    This is such a wonderful idea and great solution for special needs adults. I formerly worked as an ABA therapist with children with autism. I have a heart for these children and their families. I love this concept of independent living but in a safe and secure environment with others who understand and struggle as well. With 3 + centers for autism here in the Lafayette/West Lafayette area, this type of community would be welcome in this area. Do you have any plans or know of any builders or designers who are investing in this type of housing in the Lafayette area?

    1. Ross Chapin Post author

      Cyndi, we’re glad to hear your reply, and of your work with autism. There is a need for special needs communities nearly everywhere. If you can link us to people who want to create this in your area, give us a call.

  3. Jim Baerg

    Ross, I’ve followed and appreciated your work for quite a while. I’ve got 2 special needs daughters so I’m especially grateful for the development of this concept.
    I do have a question about energy use. Coming from the cold north, I am sensitive to surface to floor area in buildings. Looking at your aerial views of the project, it is pretty clear that small, single family housing maximizes wall area.
    Have you worked on any multi-family variations of cottage housing. I think that you could do the same general site plan of Luna Azul, but use fewer, larger buildings with the same number of units.
    I was recently in LA and saw some very intriguing paired, old apartment buildings on Los Feliz Blvd. This evidently was a building type prior to air conditioning. Two buildings face a common courtyard with parking in the rear.
    thanks for your good work. Jim

  4. Carolyn West

    We are a new non-profit in Montana. We will need a couple communities along this line for our full service training facilities for those who are low vision or are blind and for Veterans/and others with PTSD. The housing would be for either short term or long term up to a year, depending on what training is required for the individual to become independent. The main building would also need classrooms, dorms, laundry, kitchen and dining hall.

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