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According to Global Workplace Analytics, the United States has seen a 44 percent increase in hybrid and remote work environments during the last five years. This lifestyle movement is happening parallel to a continuous migration away from dense urban hubs as residents dodge higher costs of living. These trends, and others like them, have made a broader range of living locations and travel more appealing, as both renters and potential homebuyers remain budget-conscious alongside their desire for social and physical wellness.

Such societal shifts have since opened the door for new opportunities to enhance popular residential destinations while ensuring the DNA of future neighborhoods are aligned with people’s needs. As a result, developers are looking to landscape architects to lead the planning and design of new builds and community retrofits to ensure the desires of today’s consumers are fulfilled.

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The Global Wellness Summit, for instance, reports that 2023 will be the year of radical changes in the way society views wellness. As people transition from ideals of individual gratification to community enrichment, there is a greater need for higher-density neighborhoods that deliver on people’s connections – to nature, to amenities and to one other. Places like North River Ranch in Parrish, Florida, are being developed with such attributes. With a ‘green spine’ that links trail systems and localities, it eliminates the need for residents to run, walk, or bike along main roads and also provides connections to a village center with a variety of social-driven conveniences. In addition, a major healthcare provider is situated within in the heart of the community, catering to the physical needs of locals in a way that is easily accessible.

It is such details, along with a strong focus on community connection, that defines a true ‘sense of place’ – where residents can be visible, feel safe and have access to the fabric of a city outside their front doors. But it takes more than just mass elements like entertainment hubs and public parks to make for a thriving, healthy neighborhood. As people continue to make decisions that align with their social, environmental, economic – and even political views, designers must ensure their plans also address accessibility, neighborhood diversity and environmental sustainability.

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Such ‘micro-urbanist’ communities, like that of The Well in Norfolk, Virginia, utilized similar planning principles. The mixed-use neighborhood attracts new residents with its affordable living options and high level of community spirit. Featuring a series of urban plazas, pocket parks, walkable streets and nature zones, all residents have equal access to open space connections and recreational amenities. Several outdoor experiences and a meaningful landscape palette unify and enhance the regional heritage while conveying a story of resiliency. From entry roads lined with Live Oaks and common lawns that frame outdoor amenities to trails that connect play spaces, the design fully addresses the needs of multi-generational residents. The community also highlights the importance of sustainable living with a central lake, food gardens, natural areas and tree canopies that offset the carbon footprint and reduce water run-off.

In the end, attributes like stability, affordability, convenience and eco-consciousness continue to lead the next big move of today’s consumers. As we push forward to orchestrate community change, there must be an ongoing balance between functionality, aesthetics, experiences and expectations in order to enhance and create places that cater to a neighborhood’s current needs and its future for long-term success.