On Thursday, April 24, over 50 Eastmark Originals gathered on the lawn at The ‘Mark for the first of the Orange Sofa Salon Series: Built to Last — what makes great communities.
During this intimate gathering residents heard from genuine leaders in community building who shared their insights on creating great places. From the importance of the “third space” to neighborhood resilience, the panel of experts was able to draw on their collective wisdom and hands-on experience of community life cycles.
Underneath the warm glow of cabana lights, attendees passed plates of tapas and antipasto while the speakers settled onto a bright orange sofa on the community center’s covered patio. Charley Freericks, President & CEO, DMB Associates, Inc., began by sharing his perspective on the power of community. “Community is about people. Community happens at apartment buildings, it happens at the grocery store, it happens wherever people gather. At Eastmark we knew it was important that residents have an opportunity to connect early because that’s what makes community work.”
A chief facilitator of connectivity is the built environment. Todd Hornback, Director of Community Life at Verrado, believes the built environment has two functions – to enhance the way a community looks and the way it lives. “I’ve lived in the Valley for 17 years and my observation is that environments are designed to either keep people apart or bring people together. [DMB environments] literally get rid of walls, reduce the number of cul de sacs and create physical connectivity.”
Melinda Gulick, Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Community Life, DMB Associates, Inc. underscored the importance of planning in creating intimate neighborhoods where residents are anything but anonymous. “You will begin to notice when things seem a little off kilter and you will check in with your neighbor to make sure everything is okay. You will know who walks their dog, and you will know the dog’s name. You may even know the dog owner’s name!”
Certainly, this kind of thoughtful design comes at a price; however, it also nets significant value. Citing research by both the Knight Foundation and author Robert Putnam who wrote “Bowling Alone”, Hornback draws a direct correlation between a connected, engaged community and high property value. “Take a house in DC Ranch and – with all due respect – the neighborhood across the street, and there’s roughly a 20% premium for essentially the same house.” What constitutes the premium? “The premium is community. It’s people. It’s community life.”
As the conversation drew to a close, Freericks reminded attendees of their role in shaping the community they want. “New communities are an amazing series of firsts – the first home on the street; the first kid in the school; the first person to shop in the grocery store. As Eastmark Originals you will celebrate more firsts than anyone.”
According to Freericks, along with those “firsts” comes responsibility. “We expect a lot from you. We expect you to be a role model for the next wave of people and the next wave after that.” Based on the applause, there’s no doubt these Eastmark Originals are up to the challenge.
ABOUT THE ORANGE SOFA SALON
The Eastmark Orange Sofa Salon Series is special. It’s an opportunity for you to come together with thought leaders, subject matter experts, influencers and change agents to talk about the things that matter. Timely topics. Thought provoking challenges. Emerging opinions. It’s all on the table and you have a front row seat. Our next Orange Sofa Salon is set for September 19 and will focus on the local farm-to-table movement.
Suzanne Walden-Wells is the Director of Community Life at Eastmark, the heart and hub of the East Valley and DMB Associates’ newest community. Suzanne and her team are responsible for crafting authentic experiences that make life at Eastmark fresh and engaging.
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