History: The Road To Bay City Part 4: An Interlude: The Suburbs

(....continuation from part 3

As interest in themed areas like Americana, Yamato, Nexus Prime and others continued, Second life as a whole tried to work out another issue: residential land.

One of the ways this was managed was with the "First Land" program, which ran until 2007, allowing a first time land owner to purchase a prime piece of 512m mainland for only L$512. It wasn't a bad deal for the time, but also led to much abuse as people began to create alts to buy up vast numbers of early 512m parcels, then reselling those parcels to the main account.

In some cases, themed communities were attempted for housing, allowing people to have a piece of virtual suburbia for their first land. One of the earliest of these was the LuskEstate, in the shadow of its far more well-known neighbors, the furry homeland of Luskwood and the Ahern Welcome Area.

A notecard, still available on one side at the Lusk Estates, describes the area as "a small suburban area divided into cozy parcels" declaring that, "Lusk is the perfect place to build your home if you're looking for a nice, quiet region without the stores and looming towers you might find building elsewhere."

The area was little more than a series of rudimentary streets -- even simpler than those of earlier cities like Lindenberg -- with parcels for homes set up in a grid pattern. The project quickly fell into disrepair until the project was handed over to the "Lusk Estates Land Trust" under resident control.

While the Lusk Estates, like the majority of the mainland, had no covenant, the land trust did keep several zoning and land guidelines, including no subdividing land and no terraforming, rules that govern city areas today. They also disallowed anything except residences, prohibited "flashing textures, large particle displays, loud and/or looping sounds, or any script that puts unnecessary strain on the region," and required parcels to be developed.

The Lusk Estates, as modestly successful as they were, led to the creation of yet another planned community in Boardman, which was also duplicated as "Brown" in the old "Color" regions.

Initially managed by Haney Linden, Boardman opened in May of 2003. Going farther than Lusk, this area included a street layout with sidewalks and street lamps, manicured yards, and a small residential community feel.
"Welcome to the land of palm trees swaying gently in the fresh sea breezes," said Haney Linden on their blog post of the time. "Designed in a Southern California style, Boardman is host to 'Pre-Fab.' Structures here are limited to an easy-to-assemble pre-fabricated mini version of 'House-In-a-Box.'

"This region is designed to especially appeal to newer residents who may not have developed expert building skills," Haney continued. "While all structures are pre-fabricated, you can customize them to express your true inner spirit. It's a no-hassle, inexpensive way to get started making a home in Second Life."

Much like the Lusk Estates, however, Boardman didn't exactly capture the imagination. The rules on using the prefab home were relaxed, and the land became run down. Pieces of the road were soon missing, and land barons complained that they would be lucky to make any money selling land in that area.

Then, again mirroring the Lusk Estates, a community group stepped into the gap, working with Haney's replacement, Jack Linden, to refurbish Boardman. The area was rebuilt and revitalized by its new residents and land owners. Today, it is much like it was when they stepped in, including a Town Hall still adorned with Jack Linden's mayoral photo, located at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Boardman/150/167/24
Yet, much like the Lusk Estates and, to a lesser extent, Boardman's twin in Brown, the area feels stuck in time, home to builds that haven't changed since 2005, owned by residents who later went on to build their own regions and stores well beyond the confines of Boardman.

You can even still find the original for sale for L$50 at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/De%20Haro/6/132/32, just on the border between Boardman and it's "Camp Linden" region mate in De Haro.

Meanwhile, the lab continued to work on Providing a community experience in the same vein as these early efforts, building on what came before. They developed Blumfield and WestHaven as a "first Land" project, once again providing suburban streets and prefabricated homes for new landowners to set up their virtual home.

With these two regions showing more promise than their predecessors, the lab gambled on an expansion, creating a nine-region community initially on the eastern edge of the Sansara Continent, called Shermerville. The community, launched in February of 2006, had a central region, called "Shermerville Central" with a playground, a pool, a "stage 4" for community meetings, and even a neighborhood sandbox area. Surrounding Shermerville Central were 8 other regions, Shermerville N, Shermerville NE, Shermerville E, Shermerville, Shermerville SE, Shermerville S, Shermerville SW, Shermerville Shermerville W, and, of course, Shermerville NW.
Aside: it is only a coincidence that your erstwhile writer also came into existence in Second Live in February of 2006, and resides in one of the remaining Shermerville regions.

The Shermerville project as a whole was doomed, however. Sales were not as robust as expected, as once again, a suburb area with limited land impact -- each parcel was limited to 512m -- and other restrictions proved unwelcome. The project was eventually shuttered, save two Shermerville regions that were grafted onto Blumfield and West Haven, with a bridge connecting them to Nova Albion.

After both Shermerville and First Land shuttered, one could have reasonably assumed that Linden Lab would no longer look towards developing residential areas, yet in 2009 a new project was announced: LindenHomes. Initially provided in 4 distinct themes with several home styles, the Linden Homes were markedly different from "First Land." For one, the home was both a required part of the home as well as arranged in such a way as to not be a part of the parcel's land impact.

No terraforming and no dividing the parcels remained the rule in Linden Homes, with the regions of the Nascera continent (the land mass that contained such homes) further solidifying the rules with an actual covenant. Unlike past attempts are residential area, Linden Home owners could also neither choose their specific parcel, nor could they sell it to another.
This proved initially fairly successful, with two additional copies of the Nascera landmass added to the grid. That success was to be somewhat short-lived, however, as the economic downturn of the era reached into Second Life, stunting much of the potential growth of Second Life for some time.

Yet hope springs eternal. After the launch of the Horizons project on the Zindra continent, featuring another suburban area, this time with a retro-futuristic theme and prefabs that you could shift into four different designs, Linden Lab apparently felt now was the time to once again explore the suburbs.

In 2019 -- a full decade after the launch of the original Linden Homes -- a second generation launched, initially featuring yet another suburban community, as well as a second theme featuring houseboats. Carrying elements from both its first-generation Linden Home predecessors as well as design elements gleaned from Horizons and, yes, Bay City, the Linden Homes of the Bellisseria continent proved themselves to be a hit. At last, after 16 years, the code for a successful Residential community appears cracked.

The area has continually expanded over the year, introducing a third theme -- campers and trailers - - that seems to evoke the relationship between Boardman and its "Camp Linden" neighbor in a far more successful fashion. They have also promised many other themes and potential expansion to come.

With the success of the new Linden Homes, I am nonetheless left wondering: what awaits the future for the grid's cities, and what will the metaverse metropolis of the future look like?
Next Time, we have another city of Second Life's past to explore as well look to Bay City's neighbor to the East, Nova Albion, in the next issue.
Reporter Historian Marianne McCann

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