In the 1980s, many Americans moved out – chasing the suburban dream. The thriving 1990s accelerated the pace of this movement far more, but then came the recession. A moment of introspection, it prompted us to look at our values and ask ourselves some hard questions. In the years since, a shift has taken place; a move away from collections of “things” to satisfy and towards genuine connection. Desiring more than a stretched thin existence of upkeep and long drives, people sought to replace the busy race with the goal itself—life. A vibrant life that longs to leave the life of excess behind and find what is truly essential.
As Greg McKewon, the famed writer on essentialism states, “The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.”
At Beacon Street, we‘ve found great wisdom in the idea of essentialism. A way of life purposed to evaluate each decision through the lens of values. A vibrant rubric, it buoys against the drive to amass more of the mediocre, enabling us to deliberately choose the vital few. Put simply, Essentialism is about making choices driven by principle, rooted in what’s most important. And while there are certainly tradeoffs – the intentional forgoing of that which we deem less valuable – the way of the essentialist is focused with precision on discovering the truth of “less but better.”
Be it the desire for community, access to conveniences, culture, and great food, or just the enjoyment of life within walking distance, this is what drives our discerning buyers. The result is an influx of interest in urban areas – the city taking a big breath in – filling its lungs with newfound life. And with full-to-bursting cities across the nation, the beauty of constraint is driving development companies like ours to find and offer more creative, dare we say, essential solutions.
Access is essential to livability. (The amenity is all around you!) The explicit values driving buyers’ decisions is saying “yes!” to more of the things to which they desire to say yes to—connection to people and great places. A home that allows them to simply walk out their doors into the life of the bustling city street— is paramount to choosing life in this form.
Before the advent of cars, this was the way of life for millennia. Age-old principles of timeless neighborhood design and great planning have inspired people to connect and live deliberately. Great neighborhoods of the past, the ones we all walk into and immediately feel a special sense of connection and community, are built on principles that are timeless and powerful. It is adherence to these principles that creates the kind of dynamic places that enable the aspiring essentialist to truly enjoy the life and spirit of a place.
Tradeoffs in a material driven world are agreed upon as excesses, and deliberate decisions to jettison them move us toward what can be gained in return—the timeless joy of life lived with less but better—neighbors who care, a sense of place, sidewalks, local shops and eateries, and outdoor activity all shape this vibrant way of integrated life.
Our industry stands at the door of opportunity. With baby boomers and millennials alike seeking similar access to the truly essential, we get to differentiate and tailor our approach to place-making, infusing it with meaning. How do we appeal to the homeowner who for decades has grown accustom to more but craves simplicity in a more manageable space? How do we offer access without compromising the beauty and comfort of home? How do we deliver on the premise of less but better?
Livability is essential to sustainability. As a development company that cherishes history and beauty, sustainability is of utmost importance as it effects directly the vibrancy and longevity of a place. While the nature of building materials and supplies have become more earth-friendly by nature, easier access to what residents’ desire most in the livable space promotes a greener lifestyle.
By definition, life in walkable environments is greener. When a resident can simply walk out his or her door to the nearest shop for fresh bread, there is a positive impact on emissions simply because they no longer have to drive.
Admittedly, most sustainable or green designs are presented in a more modern aesthetic. However, a zero carbon building that feels uninviting is for some a non-starter. If there are no spaces familiar enough to satisfy their desire, they simply stay put. Offering a home more familiar, more essential, and denser is for many an agreeable future. The more sustainable option, therefore, is creating spaces that enable them to thrive, whatever their aesthetic preference. Traditional design and green development can actually be complementary, particularly when it gives homeowners access to what they define as a more sustainable life.
Essentials give access to life. What is essential to building a sustainable, beautiful space for your customers? That which is of greatest value and leads to abundant living? Find out what is most essential to your audience, and then do everything in your power to build it.
Jim Wiley is President at Beacon Street Development. He may be reached at www.beacon-street.com.