During the latter half of the twentieth century, America saw explosive growth in the middle class, leading to a major change in land use and development. America transformed away from the city/country model, and population growth began to concentrate on the edges of cities and outwards from them. People started moving to the suburbs for more affordable housing, more elbow room, and a more relaxed lifestyle.
Another change is underway. In recent years, more and more Americans have grown increasingly weary of the strains of the suburban lifestyle. As the suburbs kept expanding outward, jobs remained concentrated in the cities. Long commutes, high gas expenses, vehicle wear and tear, and ever-shrinking free time began to take a toll.
Instead of moving back to the city, people wanted a different kind of change. The pandemic accelerated this push due to lockdowns and remote work, but the truth is that these trends had been quietly taking shape for several years. With the growth of hybrid work and the desire for a simpler lifestyle, experts in master planning began to find growing numbers of people receptive to and eager for a new model: live, work, play communities.
Features of Live, Work, Play Communities
Master planning for these communities centers around three principal ideas: reduced commuting; convenient, quality dining, entertainment, and shopping; and open spaces promoting outdoor activity.
When it’s all added up, the average commuter spends a staggering 168 hours commuting each year. That’s a full week, and remember that’s just the average. It’s not unheard of for some people commuting between outer suburbs and cities to spend 4-5 hours each day commuting. Do the math over 50 weeks and five days a week: that’s as many as 1250 commuting hours a year, or about 7 ½ weeks.
To cut down on commuting time, master planning for live, work, play communities strives for high-quality job opportunities and workplaces within the community itself. With a hybridizing workforce, an approach some are taking is building state-of-the-art worksites that businesses can use for certain periods of time. Some of these facilities have amenities such as gyms, day care, and fine dining.
Another aspect of the commuting approach is to make commuting healthier and more enjoyable. To that end, planners provide for bike paths, transit options, smart road designs, and the like that make commuting less stressful. The end result of all of this is that many people have more time for themselves and their families because they’re spending less of their lives traveling back and forth for work.
Dining, Entertainment, and Shopping
People in these communities want options for food and fun that keep them local instead of having to drive into the city and having to deal with the attendant time, traffic, parking issues, etc.
This doesn’t mean gas stations, fast food, and a grocery store. When planning these communities, developers have to understand who the residents are and what preferences and lifestyles they have. That way, they design communities that have strong appeal to the people who are going to be living there.
Many communities like these have some sort of central hub where there are offices, restaurants, retail stores, outdoor recreation areas, and entertainment venues (theaters, concert halls, etc.). The options appeal to a wide variety of tastes, but they all deliver value. Yes, the aforementioned gas stations, fast-food restaurants, and grocery stores may and probably will be present, but they exist for necessity and convenience, not as defining attractions.
The third principal defining feature of a live, work, play community is an emphasis on health and recreation. By design, most of these communities are already bike- and pedestrian-friendly, but the outdoor recreating aspect goes much beyond that.
The best of these communities set aside open space that will stay that way. It can include athletic fields, playgrounds, public parks, hiking trails, lakes and ponds, and more. The goal is to create outdoor spaces that make people want to spend time outside. As they do so, they craft a healthier, more active lifestyle, and they frequently grow more environmentally conscious as they become attached to these green spaces that provide so much rest, relaxation, exercise, and recharging of the spirit.
Done well, a live, work, play community provides a self-sufficient, sustainable urban habitat where people connect with nature and enjoy far less stress in balancing their working and personal lives.
If you’re looking for help planning a live, work, play community or need a qualified expert for the design and installation of certain aspects of it, talk with us to see how we can be of assistance. Let’s talk today