The word community, like many words in the English language, has more than one interpretation. A community can 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 location.
“Many people enjoy the sense of community where they live,” says Jim Stoller, president of The Building Group in Chicago. “Many people want to know their neighbors and have relationships with people who live in their shared community. They often like to socialize with their neighbors and that’s often part of why they live in a shared community.”
“Building community builds trusts with the board and builds unity,” says Joanne M. Willoughby, PCAM, CMCA, AMS, president & CEO of Associa/Association Services of Florida. “It allows the community to live in harmony.”
Cultivating a sense of community can present a challenge for residents, property managers, and homeowners associations. In a sprawling, heavily populated urban environment like Chicago it is still possible to feel a disconnect from other residents, even those living in the same building, and sharing the same amenities.
“Many people enjoy the sense of community where they live but it’s not for everyone,” says Stoller. “There are people who move into high-rise condominiums or townhomes who don’t want to know their neighbors. They are unfriendly and they close their door and don’t want to have any contact with outsiders. Shared communities have to deal with all types and they cannot require all members to be involved.”