Just recently started my first position in my field after getting a CD degree: new intern, specializing in the Mountain View neighborhood in Anchorage, in the OECD in the Mayor's office.
Mountain View is Anchorage's most notorious (if, in some ways, exaggerated) "bad neighborhood", apparently caused primarily by excessive density - it was apparently a good neighborhood once with compact single family lots, then was rezoned multifamily during a housing boom, and today it's full of 4-plexes crowded together, with very low ownership rates, lots of absentee landlords, and no real opportunities to invest in the neighborhood for most people. It's bordered on two sides by a military base, and has a third edge defined by a freeway/primary arterial. It has a 'main street' of commercial development, but the street is currently designed as an arterial bypass, and not especially walkable or effective at drawing people into the stores.
Lots of work being done there, but I still feel awfully intimidated by the whole thing. Been doing some work, but I need to meet other people around here.
Could use some advice on good ways to get the pulse of an area for the first time, since I want to be working with the community's interests rather than just throwing ideas at them.