Home Sweet Home Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, is a multicultural hub that thrives on the diversity of its nearly 3 million residents and 77 distinct neighborhoods. Nestled on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago is traversed by both the Chicago and Calumet rivers, and attracts an estimated 40 million visitors annually. This heartland city, incorporated in 1837, has a rich history complemented by dozens of museums and cultural institutions, and numerous major sports teams, as well. What—if anything—could possibly be missing?

While many residents may enjoy the paradoxical privacy that metropolitan living provides, others may crave a sense of belonging and a feeling of community. People living on top of each other in high rise buildings doesn’t necessarily equate to the hominess of many residential communities; in fact, such close living quarters may have the opposite effect. After all, in a city like Chicago, busy lives, hectic schedules, developing careers, raising children and managing families often leaves one with little interest (or time) for socializing with neighbors.

The word “community,” like many words in the English language, has more than one interpretation. A community may be identified as a geographical location—a physical infrastructure of streets, parks and buildings, defined by tangible brick and mortar structures—but a sense of community is often emotional, intangible, and much more difficult to define; it is what makes an address a home, and not just a street location. If a sense of community truly has value—both real and perceived—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 a property manager 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

Brent Straitiff, CMCA, AMS, is the co-owner and founder at TriView Property & Investments based in Chicago; his company specializes in properties with 20 to 200 units. He believes a sense of community is an important element in the overall value of a property of any size. He favors a proactive approach to identifying and meeting the needs of each individual property.

Straitiff believes busy schedules most often prevent residents from getting involved in community government. “Serving in a volunteer position may seem like a thankless job,” he states. “But it is an opportunity to make a positive impact.” He identifies the need for a strong management company, coupled with a level of involvement from the residents and board in order to successfully form a sense of community. He believes a positive sense of community has a noticeable impact on property value. “It creates a buzz, and a higher demand,” he continues. “Residents watch for vacancies for family and friends.”

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