According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a wellness community is “proactively developed with the holistic health of its residents, guests, the environment—both natural and built—and the local community in mind.” While not new, this concept is one that is thriving and expanding. In fact, according to GWI’s latest research, wellness lifestyle real estate, which includes residential, hospitality, and mixed-used properties that incorporate wellness elements into their design, construction, amenities, and services, grew 19 percent from 2013 to 2015 to become a $118.6 billion market. “Ultimately, the conversation has evolved from places where people would once only visit—like health resorts or yoga retreats—to where they now hope to live,” says Mia Kyricos, founder and president of Kyricos & Associates, a strategic advisory firm for wellness-driven businesses, and chair of the Wellness Communities Initiative, sponsored by GWI. “Today’s consumers have become much more health conscious, and this phenomenon spans age and time. It’s about lifestyle, not demographic.”
These communities can take on many different forms, including spas, hotels, and retreats with residential components; master-planned communities; and neighborhoods and apartment complexes. One of the most well-known developments is Serenbe, a progressive community in Georgia that is home to more than 400 residents. Among its highlights are an organic farm, a seasonal Saturday Farmer’s Market, a thriving Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and edible landscaping. It is also home to boutiques, art galleries, a spa, riding trails, cooking classes, workshops, and more. Other thriving communities include BedZED, a mixed-use sustainable community in the UK with 100 homes, office space, a college, and community facilities; and Tao Inspired Living, a residential community in Riviera Maya, Mexico, created with thoughtfully designed living spaces, a community program, and a wellness center.
And it doesn’t stop there, as plans are in the works to take the concept to the next level—wellness cities. Delos is working on the world’s first WELL Certified city district in Tampa, FL. The principles and foundation of the WELL Building Standard, which focuses on seven categories of building performance, including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind, will be applied to this $2 billion 40-acre project. The district will include a hotel, offices, the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute, and retail, restaurant, and entertainment space. Additionally, the community will feature enhanced walkability, abundant green space with low pollen trees, sound barriers to support acoustic comfort, access to healthy foods, green infrastructure, and daily air-quality monitoring. “We will demonstrate that city design—not just building design—can be healthy and sustainable, making Tampa a leader in the wellness industry and our downtown a destination,” says Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.
As for the future, it’s certainly looking bright. Many other communities are currently in the works, including Avira and Boga Valley in Malaysia; Dromgarden in Sweden; Grow Community in Seattle; Destination Medical Center in Rochester, MN; Harvest in Argyle, TX; The Cannery in Davis, CA; and The District in Jacksonville, FL. Kyricos also sees its powerful potential with our aging population, saying, “I think the concept of ‘senior living’ will soon be reinvented in a way that folds more naturally into wellness-driven communities that see the benefit of the old and young aging in place together.”