Food trucks do more than provide creative alternatives to the same old lunch and dinner options. They bring neighbors together.
People at condominium and single-family-home communities are learning the financial and social benefits of coordinating activities, such as food truck events or book clubs. If you like where you live, you typically stay longer and complain less.
“Residents are happier when they feel like the property they call home really cares about them,” said Chan Frazier, founder of Socially Directed, a resident retention consulting firm based in Washington. “You can ride in an elevator and never speak with your neighbor, but if you see them at a happy hour you might talk.”
Frazier says his mission is to help community managers achieve high resident retention by coordinating social events.
“Many new construction buildings in the greater D.C. region were designed for live, work and play, yet they have never organized events utilizing these spaces,” Frazier said. “We are helping building managers do something with those spaces.”
Community events are not a new phenomenon.
Senior living communities have been providing activities for residents for decades. I can’t keep up with my own mother’s social calendar of attending shows, book talks and pool parties as a resident at Leisure World in Silver Spring. And don’t forget about the weekly Mah-jongg game. Who knew mom was a trend-setter.
At my own Washington condominium, a local food truck is scheduled to pull up in front of the building one evening each week.
“We have a wide variety of food trucks that sell approximately 100 meals in the three hours they are at the building,” said Margie Nichols, on-site building manager at the Connecticut condominium, 3883 Connecticut Ave. NW. “Currently, we are booked [to the end of] January with a waiting list of truck owners that want to come to 3883.”
The popularity of the food truck at my building has grown quickly.
“This started out as a monthly event,” Nichols said. “Considering its success, we decided to provide it weekly.”
Nichols said that building events help residents participate in and gain a sense of community.
I have met many of my neighbors at the food truck that I may not have met otherwise. A regular topic of discussion is what’s on the menu and what’s the name of our dogs.
Not all buildings outsource the coordination of community events or leave the task to building managers. Some residents take on the responsibility themselves to improve their own living environment.
The Connecticut’s resident social committee coordinates a game night, craft night and a book club.
Sumner Village, a development of 16 low-rise condominium buildings in Bethesda, has an active and endless list of events coordinated by a volunteer resident activities chair. Each season highlights indoor or outdoor activities, depending upon the weather.
“The summer brings well-attended water aerobics classes in our outdoor pool,” Jane Stanton, the current activities coordinator at Sumner Village, said in a recent email. “February showcases ‘The Salon’ in which residents show off their various talents.”
Not everyone is interested in participating, however.
“Some commuters are only here a few days a week for work and then return to New York, Richmond, Baltimore or wherever they live full-time,” Frazier said. “And some just don’t want to be social.”
Even if you don’t want to know your neighbors, living in a neighborhood with a strong sense of community creates a more enjoyable experience at the end of the day.
Jill Chodorov Kaminsky, an associate broker with Long & Foster in Bethesda and a licensed real estate agent with CORE in New York City, writes an occasional column about local market trends and housing issues. Jill can be reached at email@example.com.