Recent consumer data insight reveals that profit and purpose are drawing ever closer in alignment.

Savannah de Savary

Savannah de Savary

Using the digital community engagement platform, Give My View, property developers have collectively garnered feedback from hundreds of thousands of community members in the UK. The millions of data points this has generated present a rich tapestry of diverse consumer priorities and preferences; however, the demand for socially impactful amenities and experiences is a dominant theme across all urban areas. Community activation is not only important for environmental, social and governance (ESG); it’s increasingly crucial for driving footfall and commercial returns.

This prioritisation of social value manifests itself in several ways. Across both affluent and economically deprived communities, spaces that enhance mental and physical wellbeing are consistently a priority for local residents and workers.

Wellness tourism is a growing market, and the Give My View data suggests the appeal is not limited to travel destinations: it’s becoming just as important a factor for consumers determining which local destination to frequent within their community.

This focus on health and wellness is part of a wider consumer trend towards intangible investments, but this does not make it any less intrinsically linked to social value. Space for inclusive, inter-generational fitness, dance and movement classes are perceived by community members as a priority for their social and mental wellbeing, just as much as their physical health. This is a trend that enables residential and commercial developments alike to incorporate amenities that deliver as much commercial appeal as social value.

The inclusion of flexible space that can accommodate this, be it within the development itself or within public realm space, has the potential to marry up commercial and social value creation without breaking the bank. Think outdoor yoga decks, zen dens and repurposing event space for movement classes. Such flexible, pop-up amenities and experiences feature far more heavily within community requests than more capex and space-intensive amenities, such as fully equipped gyms and spa facilities. While a pickleball court is a worthy addition to any scheme, developers do not need to allocate a significant amount of space for wellness facilities in order to tap into this zeitgeist.

In fact, when community members are asked via Give My View what sort of amenities they would most like to see included in a proposed local development, requests for a multi-use, flexible space that can accommodate community-led cultural events, workshops and independent pop-ups, as well as wellness classes, consistently rank among the most popular choices.

Community activation underpins so many of the priorities and preferences community members share with developers, from the popularity of community gardens over individual allotments to the widespread desire to see local independent retailers supported with pop-up events.

It seems that diverse community members of all ages are craving a greater sense of social cohesion and how well developers facilitate this not only affects their ESG credentials, but their chances of planning and, ultimately, the long-term commercial success of the scheme. Local receptivity to planning applications is increasingly influenced by the extent to which the proposed scheme empowers them to co-design a programme of community activation.

Having judged the Property Awards placemaking category for successive years, I’ve been excited to see that the extent to which major developments are prioritising this social value creation appears to be exponentially increasing with each passing year. Wellington Place, winner in the Property Awards Placemaking category 2023, is a prime example of this with its evolution from retail park to a successful city centre regeneration project, which has transformed the local area.

However, developers and landlords do not need large-scale regeneration schemes to drive community activation. Micro placemaking within office buildings has been made possible thanks to two key factors: the widespread adoption of sophisticated building management apps and the rise in corporation social responsibility (CSR) prioritisation among office occupiers.

While security issues are often cited as a barrier to local community utilisation of space, by collaborating with occupiers, landlords can now surmount this obstacle. What’s more, the impetus to do so is there: corporate occupiers are increasingly focused on demonstrating CSR and when provided with a sophisticated office management app and an activated community eager to utilise their space, occupiers can safely grant local voluntary, community or social enterprise organisations temporary access to meeting and event space.

There isn’t a set blueprint for this community activation, as the avenues are as diverse as our communities themselves. However, by providing accessible, flexible spaces for the community, developers can weave the strands of social and commercial value together.

Savannah de Savary is founder and chief executive of Built-ID