Wellness Communities: Bringing Healthier Lifestyles Home

Harvest Green, a wellness community created by Johnson Development near Houston, Texas hosts a community garden for residents.

Harvest Green, a Houston, Texas wellness community created by Johnson Development, hosts a community garden for residents along with farm plots that can be rented by those who want to grow their own food. Image: Perry Homes

Where we live, work and play has a significant impact on our overall health and wellbeing.

In fact, studies show that as much as 65 percent of our health is related to these, “Social determinants of health.” So, it’s no wonder that thousands of homebuyers are making the move to communities that support and encourage healthier living.

According to a 2018 report by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), these “wellness lifestyle real estate and communities” came on the scene around the year 2000. Such developments put human health and wellbeing at the center of their home and neighborhood designs.

Defining Wellness Living

Wellness real estate is broadly defined as homes and communities that are, “Proactively designed and built to support the holistic health of their residents,” according to the GWI report. Today the wellness real estate movement is a $134 billion industry, with more than 740 projects underway in 34 countries. While features and amenities vary from one community to the next, wellness communities typically invite interaction with nature, such as walking trails or gardening, encourage active lifestyles, minimize environmental impacts on health, and are designed to encourage community engagement.

Who’s Buying?

The buyer demographic of wellness communities is as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves. In fact, one of the goals of wellness communities is to create neighborhoods with greater diversity of ages, life stages, backgrounds and social classes, according to GWI. Regardless, “There is a common theme among our buyers of desiring healthy living, caring where your food comes from and wanting to be physically active,” says Haley Peck, marketing director with Johnson Development in Houston.

Suzanne Maddalon with Austin, Texas-based Freehold Communities concurs. “We spend a great deal of time researching each market and the buyers in that market. A significant item that came out in our research was how important ‘healthy living’ is for our buyers,” says Maddalon, Freehold’s vice president of marketing. “We look for every opportunity to incorporate different types of trails, parks and open play spaces. Several of our communities have community gardens where residents can have their own garden bed.”

A Look at Wellness Living

Freehold’s Arden community in West Palm Beach is an agrihood, where residents can access fresh produce from the community farm. In the California golf haven of Palm Springs, Freehold’s Miralon community turned a partially-completed golf course into 50 acres of olive orchards. The developer has partnered with a local olive oil producer to harvest and process its own olive oil.

Just outside Houston lies Johnson Development’s Harvest Green, which is built on land that has been farmed for hundreds of years.

“We wanted to somehow honor that history. The vision was and is to have a traditional residential community — with all of its normal conveniences — built around a community farm that provides food and education to residents, schools and the neighboring community,” says Peck. “We wanted a place where people could hop on the highway and be where they needed to in 15 minutes, but also could grow their own food on their own farm plot if they wanted to.”

Residents can rent their own plots and visit with goats and chickens just for fun. Or, they can buy freshly picked produce from the farm at the Harvest Green Farmers Market on Saturdays.

The concept is clearly working. Since starting sales in 2015, Harvest Green has closed more than 700 home sales, exceeding its initial projections.

In Davis, Calif., The Cannery has made headlines since it first began development as an agrihood in 2015. It was the first master-planned community approved in the City of Davis in 20 years. What sets it apart? “Through our focus groups and our homeowners, we have found that homebuyers are looking to be part of a neighborhood, something that connects them to one another,” says Kevin Carson, North California president for The New Home Company, the Cannery’s master developer. “The agrihood concept does just that.”

All Cannery homes have solar power and options to be zero-net energy. In addition, all the homes have for bicycle storage. “Davis has one of the highest percentages of non-car trips in the country,” says Carson. “Therefore, the trails and connectivity of The Cannery to the university and downtown Davis are extremely desirable for our residents.”

All homes in this particular wellness community are within 300 feet of either open space or a trail, which soon will connect residents with a 15-acre mixed-use center breaking ground this fall.

Since opening three years ago, The Cannery has sold more than 282 homes with three of the neighborhoods sold out. Its Farm House welcome center, which is on a 7.5-acre urban farm, has drawn 17,000 visitors curious about the agrihood concept. “We have many visitors who come to tour the master plan with no intention of purchasing a home, but, in the end, they fall in love with the community and make the decision to purchase a home.”

Freelance writer and marketer Sue Durio has been writing about construction, design and related products for more than 18 years. Connect with her on Linkedin.

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