Covid-19 ushers in village life
A surge in new developments with community at its centre sees gated estates such as Port Elizabeth’s Westbrook bringing together multiple generations in its nine villages
WORDS: STAFF REPORTER – IMAGES: SUPPLIED
ommunities are the social cement that bind people and hold neighbourhoods together. “The need for connected communities has perhaps never before been more apparent, or necessary, as the world starts to emerge from a global pandemic that forced us into social distancing, self-isolation, remote learning, and working from home,” says Clifford Oosthuizen, MD of the multigenerational estate Westbrook in Port Elizabeth.
Quoting Winston Churchill who said, “We shape our buildings and thereafter, our buildings shape us,” Oosthuizen says buildings create the spaces where meaningful relationships form and communities evolve.
“The effect of the pandemic will see a shift in the focus on the physical attributes of a building, such as the quality of fixtures and finishes, the availability of green space, and amenities and facilities,” he says.
“More attention is now being paid to the principles of designing and developing services and support structures that help residents integrate, work together, self-organise, withstand and respond positively to change.”
In a post Covid-19 reality, property developers are realising the mental health and emotional well-being of residents should also be considered in design. “Creating thriving communities involves more than building roads, delivering infrastructure and building houses; it’s about providing balance and sustainable environments where people can live, work and play in safe, harmonious communities.”
Westbrook is one of PE’s largest and fastest growing estates. Developed by the Amdec Group, this multigenerational lifestyle estate was designed with a sense of community at its core. A fully walkable environment with birds, indigenous plant life and ponds, it also offers footpaths, jogging and cycling tracks and playgrounds
Set on 128ha of parkland, Westbrook occupies a prime location on Port Elizabeth’s western edge, close to retail and commercial nodes with easy access to major arterials, beaches, and the city’s central business district. The completed development will comprise nine residential estates, a town centre with shops, restaurants, offices, medical facilities and health clubs, a Curro private school, and an Evergreen retirement village.
“In the wake of Covid-19, affordability and value for money is key,” says Oosthuizen. “Buyers will be looking for compact homes with good work-from-home potential and an excellent fibre-optic infrastructure.” Another advantage of living in a gated community is the extra privacy it provides. As only residents and verified guests are permitted access, residents can enjoy their own space with little chance of intrusion by trespassers or strangers ringing their doorbells.
According to Oosthuizen, societal challenges posed by the coronavirus will see more multi-faceted, multi-generational developments like Westbrook emerge, “that provide for the practical and emotional needs of their residents while delivering financial and occupational peace of mind, state-of-the-art safety and security, and resort-style services and amenities”.
Multi-generational households sharing costs is how nearly one in five people in the United States and Australia lives. Statistics SA said in November last year that 32.2% of homes in the property market housed multi-generational families, indicating the trend is gaining popularity here too.
This can also be attributed to rising unemployment rates and cultural customs, the high cost of living making it hard for young professionals to live on their own, and growing concerns about the safety and isolation of elderly relatives.
“These estates offer a rich community-type lifestyle, where multiple generations can live, learn and play together, adding value to one another’s lives,” says Oosthuizen. “Our first village, The Ridge, is sold out and 24% of the first phase of the second village, River Dale, has already been sold before we’ve started construction.”
Rising safety and security concerns among South Africans are influencing where people want to live, and driving the increasing demand for homes in security estates. The most recent crime statistics revealed that 21,130 robberies occurred at residential homes between April 2019 and March 2020. This sees buyers opting for security estate living that offers 24-hour access control, response vehicles for perimeter monitoring, along with security cameras that pan the entire complex giving residents peace of mind.
Many developments are becoming eco-estates – protecting and preserving or rehabilitating the area’s local flora and fauna. One of the key draw-cards of the Westbrook suburban estate is its green elements. Benefits include being surrounded by 48ha of open parkland designated to maintain the feel of a peaceful, country setting with parks, wide pavements and green spaces.