Kaid Benfield  |  theatlanticcities.com

My friend Eliot Allen first introduced me to the concept of neighborhood completeness: that the quality of a place is defined in part by how many different functions it has in close proximity to homes and to each other. Eliot was closely involved in the creation of the LEED for Neighborhood Development green rating system, and the concept made it into the system. LEED-ND gives credit toward certification for a development that contains, or locates near, certain categories of diverse uses: supermarket, pharmacy, restaurant, child care facility, library, and so on.

I was part of the LEED-ND team as well, and I note that we did not list “bar” or “pub” as a credit-worthy neighborhood asset. But Michael Hickey, a community development consultant, makes a good case for their inclusion as “third spaces,” or community hangouts.

In an article titled “In Praise of (Loud, Stinky) Bars” and posted last week in the National Housing Institute’s Rooflines blog, Hickey writes:

The vaunted ‘third space’ isn’t home, and isn’t work – it’s more like the living room of society at large. It’s a place where you are neither family nor co-worker, and yet where the values, interests, gossip, complaints and inspirations of these two other spheres intersect. It’s a place at least one step removed from the structures of work and home, more random, and yet familiar enough to breed a sense of identity and connection. It’s a place of both possibility and comfort, where the unexpected and the mundane transcend and mingle.

And nine times out of ten, it’s a bar. {…}