Once in a while, I see a look of confusion on someone’s face when they hear that I work for a property developer. While they readily understand the role and need for community workers at local council or a not-for-profit, people are often surprised to hear private developers hire community development staff.
In a world that’s rapidly evolving, people like me are charged with helping the communities of new developments connect, evolve and thrive. We want to create environments that are safe, healthy places for people to live, work, learn and play. But as new suburbs spring up that challenge is: how do we build a sense of connectedness and community that has taken more established areas years and years to create?
I consider my role to be a sort of enabler; to bring people together around common interests to help foster a sense of community.
Also, there is a broker component to my role, where I bring technical specialists and other interested parties together to work towards the early delivery of this thing we developers call amenity.
Amenity is a term that often gets lost in translation. While amenity can be lots of different things, to me it is all about the early delivery of community building blocks such as parks, sports and recreational/leisure facilities, schools - basically anywhere people can meet. Creating these places enables us to seed and foster relationships within and surrounding the community.
Studies show a sense of belonging and opportunities to participate in the community is closely correlated to how happy we feel. Being a part of something greater than ourselves gives us a sense of purpose, satisfaction and safety. So why wouldn’t we spend time and energy on something so important?
To do this, we start by understanding the community profile and conducting a needs analysis. Who will live there? Where do they work? How will they commute? What are they hoping their new community will be like? From here, we set about creating an environment that aims to meet these needs and helps residents feel more settled.
As an example, we recently completed a community activity at one of our projects in Victoria. Known as The Greenshoots Project, residents in the newly settled estate received a pot plant to enjoy in their home or garden. We asked each household, in the spirit of the project, to share a message of welcome for future residents who will join them, planting the seeds for a flourishing community.
From tips on where to get the best coffee in the area to hopes and dreams for future generations, the many messages we received were so sincere, demonstrating the willingness of these residents to actively create a sense of care and connectedness to the people around them.
Little projects like this might seem small, but they’re actually part of a far bigger picture here at Frasers Property as we work towards becoming a market leader in delivering community outcomes. There’s no doubt we’ve set ourselves a big goal. All future residential projects will have a Community Development Plan and in addition, all will be registered with the Green Building Council of Australia under the Green Star Communities Rating Tool, providing an independent benchmark of community sustainability.
So the next time you spend an afternoon in a park, or some other place where people gather, and see people meeting one another, spending time together, and enjoying the shared space, sit back and enjoy it for a moment. Whether you knew it or not, you were probably part of an effort to create a place where people feel shared purpose and a comfort of knowing they belong.
Community Development Manager