Aug 8, 2013

How Can a Development Become a Community?

With government initiatives and mortgage availability joining together to increase the demand for both new and second-hand homes, housing developers are working hard to meet supply needs. As a result, innovative new communities are springing up in the most surprising of places.

The Real Olympic Legacy
As the Olympic stadium celebrated the first anniversary of last year's games it was well and truly brought back to life, but what about the rest of the Olympic Park? A thriving scene of activity for nearly two months in 2012, the 'legacy' and 'sustainability' of the expensive investment in east London was in question long before the athletes packed up and left. However, one section of the park that was not only ear-marked for development post-Games but has followed through on its initial promise is the heart of the athletes' village; the accommodation. Many Londoners have warmly welcomed the change on the landscape, perhaps even more so than the Games themselves. This is partly as a result of the social responsibility of firstly the home developers and subsequently the owners; with a range of shared-equity initiatives, rental incentives and no exclusion to those on benefits it is hoped that a genuine sense of community will be created.

The History Of Communities
With hundreds of housing developments popping up all over the country how easy is it to engender a feeling of community from scratch? Traditionally, communities are built up over years and years of generational changes, social movement and cultural identity, not simply by moving people in. Yet the challenge is one that has already been taken up in areas other than London and as far back as the First World War. Perhaps most significant was the building of so-called 'new towns' following the events of the Second World War. The challenge of overcrowding was met by the literal building of new communities and the shipping out of some of the most poor and vulnerable town dwellers to developments in the country. Ask people living in these areas today and the majority will safely say they are indeed part of a community, but in the short term what can stakeholders in the Stratford development do to oversee as smooth a transition as possible between functional flats and homely houses? They could learn from the success of companies such as LPC Living, the residential development branch of The Pervaiz Naviede Family Trust. They fully understand that a community often takes more than just houses and residents:

- it needs places to bring people together
- to provide income
- to create a link to existing areas

By including transport links, shops and business developments such as those from LPC Living prove that creating a community is not an impossibility.

A Development Takes Time
Although the Olympic development itself has suffered some delays as it prepares to fully transform into the hoped for new community, it has not dampened public interest with a reported 17,000 people signing up for only 2,800 apartments. Those in charge of the newly named East Village are well aware that to match the accomplishments of developments such as those spearheaded by The Pervaiz Naviede Family Trust they have a tough challenge ahead. Either way, knowing the legacy of its success or failure will not and cannot be known for many years to come.

Phil Jeffries is an experienced town planner. He writes regularly about the history of urban growth and community for a range of publications and keeps a keen eye on developments across the country.

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