Whitehall is Improving Delaware’s Real Estate Landscape by Building a Better “Place”
Where is your dream place?
Some see great places as being destinations. We see them as launching points. A place to gather with family and launch into a relationship that got sidelined by work and school, a place to gather with colleagues and launch the next great business idea, a place to gather with friends and launch that fitness resolution that has been evading you, or a place to gather with yourself and launch into reflection. But creating great places and launching pads have evaded the Delaware real estate community for decades. We believe there is a better way. We believe we can create extraordinary places in which to live, to share, to savor our unique launching pads. But we suggest that creating a great place doesn’t happen by accident, it takes planning. So we begin by asking…
Where is your favorite place to vacation? Where do you like to window shop? Where do you like to eat lunch on the street? Where, if you had a day to spend, would you like to stroll the streets…anywhere in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, DC… the world?
We love asking these questions. They often provoke a lot of emotion, opinion, nostalgia, memory and dreaming. What is often revealed are the readers’ favorite places. And what is also often revealed is that these places are often walkable and accessible to those who may need assistance with mobility.
But what is remarkable is how we often take these great places for granted. As if they were always that way and as if they came out of a box marked, “recipe for walkable place.” These places evolved, based upon some basic principles that, sadly, many places lack today. That is why The Town of Whitehall has the potential to be so special. We plan to change the way we approach “place” in the context of better development and improving real estate values. Not simply sticks and bricks or monetary real estate values, but the greater value realized by creating places that benefit the way you live your life. Every day. We have raised our hands to suggest that poor planning doesn’t have to be the norm, that Delaware doesn’t have a finite list of “great places” and that we are free to create the next one. And by studying YOUR favorite places through our conversations on social media, we have baked many of these principles into the community cake!
1. Get out your tape measure: Creating a great place doesn’t take a genius, just the perfection of the art of replications. For centuries, before the car, great places emerged. Did you ever notice that most of the communities we love were created before the auto boom? Proportions are key to walkability and pedestrian comfort. Therefore, the new great places are taking the time to measure beloved streets, setbacks, alleys, building heights and windows (to name a few items for measuring). They aim to replicate the experiences of Rehoboth Beach, Charleston, West Chester, Alexandria, Old New Castle and Annapolis.
2. Give them something to walk to: Sorry to end with a preposition, but it’s such an important point. Architect and writer Steve Mouzon muses in his book “The Original Green” about how simply putting in a sidewalk isn’t enough. You need to give the stroller a destination as well as a reason to turn their head right and left. The walk needs to be purposeful, and the journey needs to be beautiful and interesting. Landscapes and house designs can’t be monotonous, and the introduction of social porches, cafés, dog parks and people along the journey make it even better. At Whitehall, we have worked tirelessly to make sure that every street ends in a “terminated vista” (http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/scott-doyon/17854/get-know-awkwardly-named-“terminated-vista”), every street contains a walkable pathway, every street has a variety of housing, and that every street leads to another great street.
3. Pave the way for the Baby Boomers and Seniors: When is the last time you saw adults playing in the street? I don’t think the historic towns saw this either. But the one change we can make to create great places, is to respect the needs of our seniors. In a peer review of Whitehall, LEAPp (Life Enrichment Aging Project Professional) suggested many things. Among the list of considerations are curb cuts, easily accessible bathrooms, good lighting and appropriate signage. At Whitehall, we have paid particular attention to these details, knowing that many of our buyers not only want first floor bedrooms, but they also want to get out of the house and into the community.
4. Hiding in full view: Not everyone wants to gather with other people, so giving the individual the opportunity to exercise safely, view the artful streets, grab a cup of coffee or enjoy nature silently must also be an option. Creating a network of safe sidewalks and roads is important, but building a network of nooks and crannies to grab some quiet time is important too. At Whitehall, we have designed plenty of escapes and hope to, over time, deliver them for the residents’ experience. From the quiet solitude of a porch in the morning, to landscapes in the pocket parks, to the rippling pond with its wedding pavilion to the public reading room, solitude is as important as socialization for our residents.
So yes, Delaware can change its real estate landscape and improve real estate values. That is why, at Whitehall, we have been planning, measuring and executing in a way that will deliver Delaware’s next great place!
So tell us…what makes a great place for you? Give us some great examples. And share this idea with your friends. Let’s get the movement started!