Creating communities with a sense of belonging

27 Mar 2018

When it comes to belonging, Lendlease knows the answer is to keep the conversation alive.

For Lendlease, building homes has always been more than bricks and mortar, well-lit streets and park benches. It’s the creation of a place that provides hopes and dreams for the future, while delivering to the needs of the present. It’s the creation of a community. 

Here, in the first of a series of interviews, Matt Wallace, Managing Director of Lendlease Communities, talks about how the company works to create a strong sense of belonging within their residential neighbourhoods. 

“We know from regularly talking to our customer, that ‘belonging’ and feeling as though they ‘belong’ is one of the most important criteria when it comes to choosing their place to call home,” says Wallace.

In fact, for over 50 years, Lendlease’s aspirational communities have aimed to foster this sense of connection, genuinely welcoming while also meeting the clear needs of their customers.  

“When our customer is happy, we’re happy – and striving to reach that goal is what keeps our business alive and our employees at the top of their field. The premise of our business is understanding our customers¬ – we don’t advance as a business unless we do that really well,” explains Wallace. 

Starting the conversation

Before embarking on any new development, Lendlease undertakes comprehensive “Hearts & Minds” research to help inform community planning. Reaching out to local residents through focus groups and interviews, Lendlease gets a clear sense of what’s important to them.

From dog parks to playgrounds to group-gathering centres for more formal function to be thrown, each development is uniquely designed with residents’ needs in mind. 

The process is strewn with customer touch-points to ensure that customer needs and wants are met and consistently exceeded. 

“A while back, it used to be all about skate parks for teenagers. But now, they want to gather outside the house in open spaces with wi-fi so they can talk and message each other,” explains Wallace. 

By forecasting the future and adopting early trends, community planning is consistently in line with customer demands. 

“Our urban planning principles have open space within 400 metres or a five-minute walk of every house.  By following these disciplines, we have walking, hiking or biking trails that meander in and out of different residential areas and green spines, that culminate at major open-space areas where people gather,” says Wallace

Innovative initiatives foster belonging

The Harpley Discovery Trail in the community of Harpley, Victoria is one example of a community-centric initiative that helps establish belonging.  By creating a nature trail that celebrates the rich indigenous history of the Wadawurrung people as well as the later connection to European settlers, the trail has formed an ongoing connection to country, and a depth of understanding of place that can be embraced by the current residents.  

“People are recognising more and more the importance of acknowledging the past in order to bring meaning to the present. To really belong, there needs to be a connection to place, and that’s what we aspire to achieve,” says Wallace. 

The trail has become an important part of the area – primary schools visit to learn about the area’s rich indigenous culture. This brings visitors into the development, making them an overall part of the local community by adding to the fabric of society. 

Building partnerships that matter

As intangible as a sense of Belonging may seem – a well master-planned community can foster this very ideal.

“We know how important it is to have a place for people to gather – especially the very early residents of a new community,” explains Wallace.  

To establish these gathering hubs, Lendlease partners with community-minded organisations to provide much-needed local services when infrastructure is still being put in place. 

The Sprout Hub is an example of one of these compatible partnerships. Currently established in Victoria’s Aurora community, Western Australian’s Alkimos Beach and Calderwood Valley, NSW, Sprout Hub works as a pop-up café and community learning and meeting space where early residents can grab a coffee and meet with neighbours and friends. 

The Hub fosters further community mindedness through a ‘Seedling Fund’. Donating 10 cents from every dollar spent at the café, the fund is used to support local projects as voted on by the residents.  

At the end of 2017 at Alkimos Beach Sprout Hub, the first three recipients of the Seedling Fund were named as the 1st Albion Park Scout Group, the Albion Park Oak Flats Rugby League Football Club and Family Services Illawarra.

The Exchange, Lendlease’s one-stop-shop for training and skills development in Queensland and Victoria, provides another means for bringing the community together.  Lendlease help facilitate employment opportunities with local employers and like-minded specialist service providers.

“We want to see our residents thrive and invested in the community. The Exchange caters for work close to home ensuring continued prosperity in the local area,” says Wallace. 
 

Creating an inclusive community

One project that the team at Lendlease Communities feel particularly proud of is the Livvi’s Place playground at Jordan Springs in NSW. Partnering with Touched By Olivia Foundation, Lendlease worked with the local council to create an all-abilities playground within their Jordan Springs community. 

“It’s a place that welcomes all children of all abilities so they can meet and interact – it’s exactly what belonging to a community is all about and building it is one of our proudest moments as a business,” says Wallace.

Similarly, ‘Neighbour Day’ is an annual event that’s taking shape across Lendlease communities, with the sole objective of bringing neighbours together. Residents are encouraged to sign up for the event and they’re given grocery vouchers to help with catering on the day. Neighbours can then wander the community, meet other neighbours and be welcomed into each other’s homes. 

Building a place that caters to individual wants and needs, while also serving the broader community is a welcomed challenge.

“We know the solution to creating communities that people desire to live in, is to constantly engage the customer and it’s a conversation we won’t stop having,” says Wallace.

Lendlease have been building master planned communities across Australia for more than 50 years. Visit the Lendlease Communities website to find out more.