BELONGING

Why Human Connection Means More than The Latest Real Estate Fad

By

Chen Avni

– VOL. 8

If you’re moving into the newly completed Park Santa Monica in Los Angeles, be sure to take advantage of the shared outdoor space called The Farm, with a curated fruit and vegetable garden and family-style outdoor kitchen.

Or maybe you’ve got your sights set on the new Maverick in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, where residents can request an in-home sound bath.

At Fifteen Hudson Yards, towering over Manhattan’s High Line park, the entire 50th floor is dedicated to a fitness center featuring spas for humans and dogs alike.

It’s safe to say that today’s buzziest luxury towers dominating the world’s most glamorous skylines are preoccupied with wellness. And rightfully so. As the indoor cigar lounge disappears in favor of a dial-up crystal concierge, developers seeking a competitive edge offer wellness experiences on par with some of the world’s dreamiest hotels. Gone are the days when residences were built to help inhabitants hustle hard. Now they’re helping residents say “Namaste.”

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Over the last decade, exclusive access to luxury wellness spaces have become par for the course amenities at premium rental buildings.

But what many of these developers have overlooked is the difference between posh amenities and building spaces that promote the real, long-lasting health of residents. 

Even before the pandemic, researchers flagged loneliness as a major factor in chronic disease and mortality. It bumps up stress levels and depression, and realizes itself in the body with increased inflammation. Some have said it’s as bad for your health as smoking.

The antidote? Human connection.

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives,” reported the Harvard Gazette. Last month, researchers flagged that 36% of Americans – and 61% of young Americans – reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the prior four weeks, compared with 25 percent who recalled experiencing serious issues in the two months prior to the pandemic. 

There’s a difference between posh amenities and building spaces that promote real, long-lasting health

Traditionally, luxury high-rises—the kind that can command big asking prices associated with desirable amenities like that yoga studio or spa-like service—were all about isolating residents from the masses. But that’s changing now that we are more aware of the importance of social connection, especially as we’re adjusting to the post-Covid world. The most coveted amenities are now all about fostering participation, with buyers prioritizing healthy experiences that help people connect with each other.

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Neighbors in Kansas City value the community weekly water aerobics classes bring as much as they do the burned calories.

It’s about the interaction between public and private, buildings and neighborhoods, say experts like Eran Chen of ODA Architecture, who recently emphasized the importance of community living. At ODA, architects are focused on building spaces where residents can seamlessly move between their private residences and collective spaces focused on health, access to the outdoors, and one’s neighbors.

So, what does that mean for the real estate community? Suddenly, that rooftop garden seems a lot less indulgent. In fact, it can future-proof your organization. But the true differentiator is all about building real connections among people. Whereas spaces can become fads, falling in and out of favor every few years or so, the feeling of community simply does not go out of style.

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New Neighbors in Kansas City come together for a rooftop party to welcome new faces to the community. 

Rethinking a development as a space for participation is increasingly necessary for competitive real estate companies. While the more eye-popping offerings may always be relegated to the ultra-chic lofts of the rich and famous, it’s possible to do it at an accessible level. It’s all about health-focused offerings that give neighbors the chance to connect with each other. From bicycle repair to dog-washing stations, forward-thinking communities are offering amenities that increase the health and wellbeing of all—even our four-legged friends.

Produce boxes. Plant workshops. Poolside yoga. These offerings increase the value of a space. But they’re not enough. In order to truly increase asset value for buildings, real estate developers need to think about the experience of human connection that happens in these places. Ultimately, that’s where you can establish lasting and meaningful trust among neighbors. And in my experience, that leads to improved retention and resident participation, boosting visibility and brand awareness for real estate providers.

As inventive and colorful as some of those wellness trends may be, I’ve been more interested in the excitement around these community programs. Which I’m pretty sure are here to last. Because one thing that never goes out of style? Having great neighbors.