Locale celebrates the success of another webinar, one that focussed on the importance of bridging the gap between real estate and local communities.
On August 26th, Guy Windsor-Lewis, CEO and founder of digital property management firm Locale Group, hosted a webinar that explored the importance of property developers connecting with people to ensure successful integration into communities.
Guy was joined by an esteemed panel of speakers – Bridget Wilkins, Director of Community Engagement & ESG at Built-ID; Sam Kidby, Managing Director of Evergreen Reputation, and Laura Burson, Business Development Director for Locale Life.
What does bridging real estate with the community mean?
Historically, development proposals can strike a nerve with local residents, who may feel intimidated by the arrival of unknown investors in their community. Today, meaningful engagement and dialogue with locals is an increasingly high priority amongst property developers, as establishing relationships in the early stages is essential to ensuring their buildings are accepted, achieving a shared vision, and therefore more likely to receive a higher ROI.
Bridget Wilkins, Director of Community Engagement & ESG, believes that property developers have evolved from ticking boxes to looking for a genuine relationship with local areas. She says, “Today, real estate is taking a more collaborative approach to development of spaces and properties. Developers are looking for two way engagement, and delivering collective and shared values and services.”
She continues, “They want to establish elements of common ground and beliefs to share a vision for the future – simple things like climate action, community, and greener spaces. They want to take those people on the journey and evolve spaces together to meet the needs of those who will be using them.”
Sam Kidby, Managing Director of Evergreen Reputation, agrees that involving locals in the journey creates a stronger development and plants deeper roots in the community. He says, “It’s essential that developers step outside their bubble and the boundaries of developing a space or property by understanding the community with which they want to engage. By letting in people in the whole process of a development from construction to being open, they can remove the barriers that clients face with the community and potentially attract new audiences to the area.”
Technology is the bridge between communities and developers
In recent years, technology has had a growing role in strengthening relationships between developers and the local residents. Sam says, “The core role of technology is consistent and regular engagement with the community. We’ve moved from writing comments down on paper to being able to engage directly and quickly to a much larger audience. The introduction of technology has led to large-scale feedback and translating that to valuable data in which developers can learn about the community and develop a property or space that aligns with the results.”
Laura Burson, Business Development Director for Locale Life, believes that technology has helped real estate connect and collaborate with demographics that have never before been reached. She says, “Technology can give a platform to a wider network in communities. It’s for those people who can’t go to the traditionally government led sessions that take place during the day. People who are working or busy may not have time to drop in and voice their questions or concerns, so using technology gives people the means to check for information and updates at their own convenience. This in turn allows developers to get more voices involved which has to be a positive step.”
The Customer Voice is the Future
Baffling to the panel is how doing market research and listening to local communities and people is seen as cutting edge. Laura says, “This type of research should be a given. The industry should be doing surveys, should be doing listening programmes and following the customer voice and delivering on what they want.”
It’s time for real estate to actively engage, listen and take action, as the last 18 months have proven the value in connecting with people and enabling a community voice. As Bridget put it, “change is coming, whether we like it or not.”
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