Vertical Villages

Homes grouped around a small collection of shops, churches, banks, a doctor’s office and a barber. It’s the way cities and towns developed. Today, a similar process is underway in Vancouver, Miami, Baltimore, San Jose, Memphis and many other cities, except expansion is as much upward as it is outward in a new vision of community considered a “vertical village.”

The concept found early proponents in Asia, where space is at a greater premium. Now, similar neighborhoods are taking shape in the U.S. and Canada, often in former industrial or commercial sites. In Memphis, Cross-town Concourse is rising in a former Sears distribution center and retail outlet the size of 25 football fields. In Atlanta, another abandoned distribution center is the foundation for Ponce Market, a mixed-use community adjacent to the Beltline. And in an era when retail seems to be threatened, shopping malls — not the familiar single-dimension covered expanse, but open sites inviting participation — are the foundation for vertical villages along with a mix of residences in multiple buildings and varied price brackets.

Misora Santana Row. Photo courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architecture. 

However, no matter how well meshed, retail and residential alone do not create community. Instead, the addition of parks, trails, green spaces, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, performance centers, galleries, venues for the arts, wellness, education and medical and dental facilities turn what might be simply a new mall into a community.

Arts and culture are a focus at Crosstown Concourse, which is a collaborative effort, focused on the arts. Here, residents are perceived as embodying the spirit of the place.  

Santana Row in West San Jose, California, is another relatively new mixed-use community incorporating retail, offices and residential.

“Community is engrained in everything we do here at Santana Row,” says Collette Navarrette, West Coast marketing director for the developer, Federal Realty Investment Trust. “The center-wide amenities, highly engaged residents, and unique community events that Santana Row offers inspire and connect people in a meaningful and lasting way.

The concept of a vertical village might be mainstream for developers, but it’s still new to consumers. One of their biggest questions is whether the convenience and community will meet their needs and most especially their values, according to data scientist David Allison, who heads an eponymous global advisory firm. He says it all comes down to values. “What we value determines what we do.”

Allison brings new insights into con-sumer behavior. He contends traditional demographic parameters of age and gender do not work in today’s market. “People really don’t act their age anymore. Gender rules and norms are less important than ever before. In fact,” he says, “we live in a post-demographic era. Allison’s firm has amassed data from almost half a million people regarding 40 core human values as well as several hundred other needs, wants and expectations. Their database, Valuegraphics, shows that people in the traditional demographic categories have little agreement — only 13 percent of the time for Boomers, 11 percent for Gen X and 15 percent for Millennials. Humans overall only agree 8 percent of the time. Instead, Valuegraphics data uncovered 10 huge groups or architypes who agree on pretty much everything.

To profile those drawn to a vertical village, Allison combined this data with additional research among 1,864 North Americans who indicated interest in such a community. The results reveal several major interest profiles.

The Interlace in Singapore, designed by Ole Scheeren and Oma, established a new vision for urban residential living. Photo courtesy of Mike Cartmell. 

Local Experience
Chasers Approximately 32 percent literally pursue experience after experience, but they like to have those experiences close to home. “They want to do things they love again and again,” says Allison. Loyal to things that trigger a sense of belonging, they are apt to join a team or club and love to see the same faces. Quality of life often means quality of social life. A sense of belonging is important and they like the idea of multipurpose living. Allison says for this group extra thought should be given to programming. A 3D walkthrough of a yet to be finished building would have great appeal.

Workaholic Investors
Comprising 19 percent of potential residents, this group values financial security, material possessions and wealth. They are likely see a place in a vertical village as an investment. Allison says, “They are thinking long term about all of the component parts of the offering.” They are likely to be attracted to the proximity of amenities. Who lives in the building could also be an incentive for them.

Creative Savers
This group, which comprises about 16 percent of the sample, gravitates to places that will foster their own creativity. They accept potential financial challenges presented by a creativity-centered life. They are likely to have children and are attracted to inspiring design, cozy common areas and quaint trails meandering through parks, according to Allison.

City Loving Environmentalists
The last of the major archetypes, this group sees this style of community as being better for the environment and is motivated to reduce their carbon footprint. They love city living but appreciate and value of parks and green spaces. Highly educated and loyal, they are attracted to diversity. Family and relationships as well as health and wellbeing are also important to them.

Another group, about 18 percent of the sample, is composed of varied smaller architypes, which indicate going vertical might represent a substantial cross section of consumers.

CityVista, a mixed-use development, located at 475 K Street, N.W., in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood of Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons by AgnosticPreachersKid.