While the majority of people live in densely populated cities, we’re witnessing rapidly increasing rates of loneliness, depression and isolation. As remote working, tech jobs and Netflix-and-chill culture continue to proliferate, people are finding themselves starved for human connection.
People are looking for all sorts of solutions, and the answer isn’t necessarily to move to a village: It’s to find a community wherever you are.
All over the world, micro-communities are thriving, from wellness, golf, ski and retirement communities to pop-up communities like Burning Man and Summit Series. The rise of communal living is not just a matter of affordability; it’s the direct result of a desire to connect.
The result: Fostering human connection is the new role of the real estate developer.
Creating spaces that bring people together, cultivate happiness and help people find meaning is a task that’s upon us. I believe developers who master that art and science will be the builders of tomorrow who capture the hundreds of billions in value that’s about to be realized as real estate is repurposed and transformed. As cities are changing, the ways we plan our built environment are shifting. The need to create micro-communities — places for people of like mind to both live and work — has never been stronger.
From my vantage point as the CEO of a co-living community, here are four ways real estate developers can capitalize on (and stay ahead of) this massive trend:
Repurpose existing properties.
All over the world, developers are transforming industrial spaces into co-working environments. This trend is now spilling into living spaces. At the intersection is multipurpose real estate that blends the lines between residential and commercial. In downtown Los Angeles, for example, countless industrial spaces have been turned into thriving communities based on personal interests, such as art, fashion and technology.
You don’t need to develop a building from the ground up to create a space for a community to thrive. There are thousands of buildings all around the world waiting for creative developers to repurpose them.
Space can be empty and devoid of life, or it can bring people alive. The new era of real estate requires much more active participation from owners and managers to create experiences that add value to people’s lives. Get creative.
If the community you’re building is focused on health and wellness, transform a barren room into a yoga studio, and bring in great instructors. If built around artists, host workshops. The opportunities to use space in ways that reinforce the bonds of a micro-community are endless.
Design for human connection.
Frank Lloyd Wright saw that opening up the floor plan of a house resulted in people coming together and sharing meaningful experiences. Like Wright, leverage spatial design to bring people together in ways that create a positive feedback loop.
Bringing people together and facilitating connection is of tremendous value in a world of tech-fueled isolation. When done masterfully, the value of a property becomes far greater than the sum of its parts. This can be achieved simply through the layout of furniture or creating cozy enclaves like sunken living rooms and inviting outdoor gathering areas. Space can be used in ways that facilitate human interaction, and sometimes it’s a simple as the placement of a seating area.
Call on the creativity within yourself to add value to others’ lives in nonobvious ways. Bring homes and communities together in symbiotic relationships. Find a common theme — wellness, art, sports — that builds cohesiveness based on the interests of a particular community. Enhance them through intelligent architectural, spatial and experiential design.
The real estate developer of tomorrow will have more in common with today’s tech entrepreneurs than yesterday’s real estate barons. They will be the heart behind making micro-communities thrive.