One rates my neighborhood very highly, the other my city quite poorly, but both AreaVibes and Walkscore have the same methodological problems when it comes to assessing “amenities”. That
is that they take no account of quality and there is no criteria for variety. In truth, all restaurants, shops, museums, and cafes are not created equal.
A case in point would be the food shops found within a block or so of where I live. The “convenience store” type all have the same overpriced selection of the lowest quality prepared foods and no fresh food I would ever dare to eat. With Mom & Rico’s, Frigo’s, Milano’s, and Zonin’s I have access to an abundance of “Specialty Foods”…so I’m all set if I need Nutella, prosciutto, Cinzano bitter, or sun dried tomatoes, but I have spent over an hour visiting a half dozen establishments looking for such bizarre comestibles as potatoes, tortilla shells, and onions and have been unsuccessful in my efforts. The closest produce establishment, A&C Produce, is almost a mile away making it walkable, but not particularly convenient, and has almost no organic produce. The closest full service grocery store is across the Connecticut River in another town.
According to the two aforementioned place rating sites my location is blessed with an abundance of food purchase options. I would trade all (excluding the Italian specialty shops) of the retail food establishments in my neighborhood for one well-run, clean, full service grocery store, or even a Trader Joe’s.
These sites obviously use modern technology and algorithms to get a snapshot of any community’s amenities, but they don’t have the manpower or the fine tuning to get into the nuances of what makes a neighborhood. There are amenities in my neighborhood, cultural institutions and museums for example, where my neighborhood is exceptional and probably deserving of the A+ rating it gets at AreaVibes, but in many small but significant ways, my “place” is deficient. In all of the other categories of place rating I’ve covered in this series I’ve felt my community hard done by, in this case I must admit, the place where I live is slightly “over-rated”.