Rising to the Challenge in Crisis: How Developers Can Strengthen Community Togetherness
By Celeste Smith
Developers are highly invested in the wellbeing of the projects they create, the businesses and residents they serve and the communities in which we all live, work and play. When impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic resulted in widespread uncertainty, it was crucial for developers to rise to the challenge and shift focus toward innovation, meanwhile supporting frontline heroes, business partners and community members.
To spread comfort, generate hope and deliver kindness, Denver-based McWhinney established the McWhinney Cares Impact Campaign. Focused largely within its Denver properties and the Centerra master-planned community in Loveland, the campaign revolved around creative, holistic methods of engaging local businesses, restaurants, hospitals, schools and — all of which have been hit hard during the pandemic.
Business Continuity & Resilience
At their core, developments are designed to build a sense of community and craft memorable experiences for local residents, guests and visitors. During this time when isolation has become the norm, community developments have the opportunity to create new ways for socializing at a safe distance in open-air spaces, while continuing to support tenants’ businesses.
In Denver, McWhinney modified the alley at Dairy Block to host a variety of community engagement events that followed CDC guidelines such as art walks, open-air fitness classes, ticketed progressive and wine-paired dinners, in addition a Fall Flannel Fest and Fall Frenzy Market for community members to gather safely.
For many developers, restaurant tenants were one of the first groups to see direct impacts from the pandemic. To support restaurants while indoor dining was closed, McWhinney launched its “Support Local” dining campaign, partnering with tenants in Dairy Block and Centerra to provide patrons with an online list encouraging take-out options, deals and hours, plus ‘open for business’ banners.
Social media has also proven to be a strong engagement tool to promote businesses — developers can host photo contents and fun scavenger games among the larger community, awarding gift cards purchased from tenant businesses.
Giving Thanks to the Frontline Heroes
Considering the heroes serving on the frontline is an important piece of any successful community support campaign. Even better, developers can include tenants in these efforts, in order to further support local businesses. McWhinney teamed up with Dairy Block’s Denver Milk Market as well as Lunches for Clinicians to provide lunch for nurses at St. Anthony’s Hospital.
To further boost positivity, the creation of “Virtual Community Cares Boxes” allowed residents and associates along the Front Range to publicly share words of encouragement and gratitude to healthcare providers.
Within local education systems, teachers, students and families struggled to keep up with the switch from in-person teaching to virtual and hybrid models of education. To extend support to local schools in Loveland, Centerra organized a resident-focused community Food Truck Rally at the community’s High Plains STEAM School. The outdoor community event supported students and educators, by collecting donations for the Thompson Education Foundation in addition to school and athletic supplies for the school.
Developers should also consider how their physical properties may be able to support those in need. For example, McWhinney’s multifamily communities are offering discounts to qualified teachers, emergency responders, law enforcement, military and veterans, helping to provide assistance to frontline community members and thanking them for their community service.
Revitalizing the Spirit of Our Communities
From dining at a restaurant, going to school or working in an office, COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of our lives. While we’ve adjusted to new lifestyles that protect our health, months of lockdown resulted in heightened anxiety, isolation and stress. More than ever, communities need a strong foundation, and developers hold great influence in fostering a supportive community culture.
The commitment to annual seasonal engagements has re-instilled a sense of tradition for communities to band together. Centerra hosted a drive-in movie for the community’s 14th Annual Halloween Hullabaloo, collaborating with VisitLoveland on a winter scavenger hunt and partnering on the upcoming return of Loveland’s Winter Wonderlights at Centerra’s Chapungu Sculpture Park. These local events also provide the opportunity to host collections and donations to support a variety of community nonprofits.
Creative art exhibits have also played a prominent role in bringing communities closer than ever, as it elicited happiness and creativity. In Centerra, positive and uplifting messages were displayed on trails and sidewalks, providing hope during the stay-at-home mandate. Chalk art sidewalk installations came to life at the Centerra Marketplace and Chapungu to celebrate the back-to-school season and Centerra continues to share its National Wildlife Federation certification through art, education and botanic garden installations.
As developers continue to invest in local communities and businesses for the long term, in challenging times it’s important everyone feels supported, safe, remains resilient and feels connected to ensure these communities continue to experience memorable experiences, ahead.
Celeste Smith is the senior marketing director at McWhinney. Through her team’s marketing and community engagement efforts across McWhinney’s properties, she helps to build a sense of community and craft authentic memorable experiences for which the developer’s communities are known for.