New Home Sale Shift: Demand More Life Per Square Foot
If there is anything we have learned from the “Great Recession” it is that perhaps we should rethink the continuous cycle the nation has been on to increase the size of homes and the once useful gizmos inside. There is a reflection that is sweeping the country in the area of new home sales, and we have embraced this reflection at the Town of Whitehall, located along the southern shore of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, Delaware. Our goal has always been to maximize the experience for our residents. Sometimes this requires us to add things like parks, sidewalks and great architecture. But mostly it requires us to focus hard on what really matters, more life per square feet.
Harvard professor Michael I. Norton said it best in his study of what makes us happy. His conclusion was that using our resources to acquire “things” doesn’t make us unhappy, but it doesn’t necessarily make us happy (http://tinyurl.com/experiencehappy ). On the other hand, if we use our resources to create an experience, it is likely to pay dividends.
So how does this relate to the planning of new homes in the Town of Whitehall? Certainly the homes are important. But the choice of home, how it is decorated and the activities inside, are the domain of the resident. But who is working on the planning, decorating and activity outside the home? In many communities built in suburbia…no one! Developers too often see their role as the ones who carve up lots, find a housing type that will sell, and disappear when the development is all done. At Whitehall, our town center model is very different. We are weaving in experiences that we have seen in other parts of the world, where communities are alive and thriving. We won’t be able to deliver each one on the first day, but the experiences are woven into the plan. And our planning approach demonstrates that, unlike homogenous subdivisions, integrating opportunities for residents to enjoy a variety of experiences in their community can greatly impact their quality of life.
The walk: Taking a walk requires walkways, connections to other communities, access to nature, beauty along the way, and destinations.
Raising funds for the neighborhood cause: Be it a bike race, a 5K or a bake sale, the residents of Whitehall are plugged into and support the larger community of Middletown and Delaware. What a great way to galvanize the neighborhood!
The grill: Whether it’s the resident chef or an outside vendor, breaking bread with the neighbors is a must. We can’t wait to dine outdoors, even if it’s on picnic tables at first.
Solitude: Great communities are active, but plan for places to retreat.
Movies, music, and the class play: Arts and entertainment are central to social interaction and learning.
The garden: Some like veggies and some like flowers. And believe it or not, some like neither. But a connection on your property and within the community to the earth is a common request.
Tailgating without moving the car: Sometimes it’s great to socialize with or without a glass of your favorite beverage. But what is really great is the ability to walk and not drive.
Kick the Can and Frisbee Golf: Having an excuse to put down the electronic gear because your mind and body are engaged in real activity is a priority for many.
Pray: For centuries, religious buildings played a central role in both the physical formation of our towns as well as the social and moral grounding of its citizens. At Whitehall, all denominations are welcome.
The market & local crafts: With an abundance of big boxes in other places, we are programming in space if a local farmers market and craft group would like to plug in.
The Bark Park: We think we have gotten more requests for play space for dogs than for kids!
We’d love to hear what you think would bring you more life per square foot at https://www.facebook.com/townofwhitehall
Join the conversation!