Many urban neighborhoods in post-industrial cities are characterized by patterns of loss of people, investments, and most importantly the loss of connections to place. Revitalization efforts usually focus on a mere restoration of the physical aspects of a place. However, restoring the psychological aspects or connections to place can be crucial for robust resilience and stability. This connection to place symbolized in constructs such as place attachment, which has been shown to relate to the resilience, stability, livability, and regeneration of neighborhoods.

Place attachment as a multi-dimensional construct incorporates several aspects of people-place bonding and many inseparable, mutually defining features. It measures the affective ties that occur between individuals and their meaningful places. Place attachment is nourished through the daily encounter with the built environment and its users. Place attachment research has previously emphasized the social and phenomenological perspectives of attachment. However, earlier studies lacked a focus on the relationship between the physical features of a neighborhood and the generation of place attachment. As a result, the role of place attachment in design theory and practice has been neglected.

Working from Fried’s “Grieving for a Lost Home”, this research contends that the physical environment and its features have an effect on place attachment through a complex modeling of indirect symbolic meanings. It hypothesizes that a group of physical, social, and demographic variables are associated with place attachment on a neighborhood level. Through investigating four urban neighborhoods in Durham NC, this case study research utilizes multiple research methods, including questionnaires, interviews, and GIS. The study has discovered that the participants’ positive perception of specific physical and social features is associated with increasing levels of place attachment on a neighborhood level. These features include neighborhood location; street quality, walkability; amenities; parks, communal activities and satisfaction.