Home Sweet Home Won't You Be My Neighbor?

From Miami’s lavish suburbs to Fort Lauderdale’s vibrant downtown to West Palm’s glamorous beachscapes, indeed South Florida is a gorgeous metropolis; vistas of turquoise water merge with miles of white sand, all under a consistently blue sky; swaying palm trees complete an exotic region filled with history and culture. Condos, co-ops, high-rises, and planned developments scatter the landscape, striving for the best views and finest locations. Annually, the area attracts over 12 million seasonal residents and visitors to augment both the general and tourist economy.

Conversely, the transient nature of the region is noteworthy. Often, residents crave a sense of community, which can be difficult when the dwellers next door might be college students who graduate and move on, “snow birds” who flee from unfriendly weather on a seasonal basis, frequent-travel immigrants, or senior citizens who pass away. Each of these scenarios is common in South Florida, and all the while, a sense of community must be organically nurtured and developed—much like a garden—for effectiveness.

High-rise or suburban condo communities do not automatically make for this coveted sense of a community; in fact, neighbors having such close proximity to other neighbors can have the opposite effect. If a sense of community is the goal, what is the best way to achieve this network of support and communication? What steps should an HOA take to foster this intangible benefit? What, if any, role should property manager’s play in building community awareness? What can busy residents contribute toward improving the quality of life in the place they call home?

Identifying the Barriers

Gloria Donnelli, CPM, is the owner and president of Elite Management Associates in Pembroke Pines. With over two decades of property management experience, she is well aware of the barriers and benefits with a strong sense of community. “This is a busy world, and activities are often outside of the community,” she says, also citing recent economic trials as challenging for individuals and communities alike.

Todd Schwartz, president of Connection Elevators in Weston, has worked in real estate and property management for almost twenty years, and currently sits on several non-profit committees. As a vendor, Schwartz is often on site, allowing him to develop an unbiased view of what works to enhance urban community atmosphere. He agrees with Donnelli, that a busy lifestyle makes it difficult to capture residents’ attention, and also notes very few residents are originally from the South Florida region. Along with many diverse cultures, a certain segment of the population is transient, as well, including young professionals who travel for work often.

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