Expanding Oldenburg: A quantitative study of the association between perceptions of third places and social capital in Wellington neighbourhoods
A neighbourhood with a well-designed and high-quality built environment has been shown to have a positive impact on residents’ physical and social wellbeing, and their overall quality of life. There is a plethora of research demonstrating how walkable, dense, connected, and mix land-use neighbourhoods improve people’s physical health however, empirical evidence supporting the built environment’s association with social well-being and social capital remains somewhat elusive. Interest in the relationship between walkability and social capital is growing momentum but considerations of other features of the built environment, such as third places remains sparse. Empirical assessments of the built environment and social capital have been conducted in Europe, North America or Australia, and studies of this relationship in a New Zealand context are almost non-existent. This thesis aims to address these gaps by investigating the association between residents’ perceptions of third places in their neighbourhood and two dimensions of social capital: sense of community (SoC) and neighbouring in three neighbourhoods in Wellington, New Zealand. Specifically, this thesis’ core objectives are to identify what types of places New Zealanders perceive as third places, the meaning and value they attach to third places, and to explore the association between SoC, neighbouring and people’s perceptions of third places. Data was obtained from a cross-sectional survey (n=160) and analysed using linear regression. Respondents most commonly perceive third places as either places of nature or as places that host activities and facilitate social interaction. For residents, it is important that third places are inclusive and accessible. The perceived quality of third places was significantly and positively associated with SoC. This relationship appears to be unaffected by demographic variables. The findings of this study provide scope for local policy makers and planners to provide for the presence of high-quality third places that are of nature or host activities to encourage social interaction between residents in new neighbourhoods.