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We Need Our Communities Now More Than Ever

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As published on LinkedIn.com by Jodie W. McLean on July 21, 2020

As we move through the dog days of summer with COVID hanging over us, it feels as though our world has shredded humanity. We miss seeing our families and friends, celebrating important milestones that create memories and build emotional bonds.

We have also lost those small moments of smiles, eye contact, and “hellos” that we so easily and often exchanged with our neighbors and friends – those little moments make us feel a part of something much larger than ourselves – our community.

Creating these micro-moments captures the heart of who EDENS is and our purpose to enrich community. COVID demands much from all of us. As CEO of EDENS, I’ve been thinking deeply about our vision and our future.

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I'm clearer than ever about our role in bringing people and our communities back together again in a safe and responsible way. This is both our challenge and our commitment moving forward.

Jodie W. McLean CEO of EDENS

COVID Deepens Feelings of Loneliness

According to Ipsos, 41% – nearly half of the country – reports that they have feelings of anxiety, loneliness, fear, anger or defeat. Our country’s happiness levels are now at historic lows. NORC at the University of Chicago regularly asks people about their personal happiness.

In 2020, the share of respondents saying they’re “very happy” fell to 14 percent, the lowest on record. The percentage expressing unhappiness (“not too happy”) jumped to 23 percent, the highest on record since 1972.

Isolation is Terrible for Your Health

After months of quarantine and social distancing, isolation can have more severe health effects than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, alcoholism, and obesity.

Loneliness is different from being alone. That’s why human connection – even in small, everyday doses – can meaningfully improve both physical and mental health. It's those simple interactions with our neighbors and shopkeepers that can also lift our spirits and our health.

COVID Intensifies Hyperlocalization: Americans Stay Close to Home

In a world dominated by COVID, people have an even greater desire to stick close to home where they see familiar faces and feeling of “place.” We’re noting a significant surge in hyperlocalization where stores are tailoring their offers to local cultures and trends, and where consumers want to establish more meaningful relationships with the stores they frequent.

EDENS’ communities are defined by a radius of a 17-minute travel time (whether coming by bike, car, foot or mass transit). We design our places to achieve 3.5 trips per week and 5 hours of dwell time. These are the places where people come to build community. We know that when people routinely come together in person, they feel a part of something bigger than themselves and prosperity follows – economically, socially, culturally, and soulfully.

There was a recent study on the benefits of small talk in the office, increasing positive emotion and sense of well-being. I believe many of these benefits extend well beyond the watercooler. Staying close to home isn’t about convenience. It’s about connection, safety, and comfort.

Science has proven that when you regularly see your neighbors, shopkeepers, and friends, you enjoy a physical and mental boost.

We All Need Love and a Sense of Belonging

We are physiologically designed for in-person social engagement. Without it, our body does not release oxytocin – also known as “the love chemical.” Oxytocin gives us a positive feeling when we do something kind such as holding the door or saying hello. It makes us perform acts of generosity, makes us empathic and just plain feels great. Simon Sinek stated that “Oxytocin makes us social.”
Coming Together Safely and Responsibly

If we really want to improve how people are responding to today’s public health and economic challenges, we’ve got to think about how people are reconnecting in a safe and responsible way. At EDENS, we’ve dedicated our team to doing just that.

Beyond the practical modifications that we’ve installed at our places, we have invested in some simple but important steps to help us strengthen our connection with other people, even while we remain physically distanced. Here are a few:

EDENS Open-Air Gathering Spaces:
Consumers are spending more time outdoors. We offer open-air gathering spaces where folks can spread out, be socially distant yet proximate, and enjoy being with others and the sunshine while feeling safe and healthy. Outdoor dining, flexible work/meeting spaces, fitness workouts, and great music are some of the engagement elements which we have always implemented at our places. We see these spaces becoming even more integral to our everyday lives as we re-engage with our communities.

EDENS Sustainability:
Earlier this year, we announced that we had reached our goal of becoming carbon-neutral in all of our common places. We doubled-down and set a more ambitious goal – to become carbon neutral in all of our places across our entire portfolio by 2025. We’re inspired by the recent imagery of smog-free mornings and clearer waters during the COVID-19 shutdown and will continue to ask “what else can we do to decrease EDENS’ impact on our environment?”

EDENS Mantra: The EDENS Mantra is a call to action expressed in a collection of words, lyrics and icons that embody what it means to engage in and as a community.

EDENS Gratitude Outposts: Did you know there are scientifically proven benefits of expressing gratitude? We’re installing outposts at our places where our guests can share messages of gratitude with the special people in their lives.

In the coming weeks, we’ll unveil more details about these important initiatives that meet the needs of our guests. I welcome your feedback as you discover these moments for yourself at one of our 125 places around the country.

We’re Bigger than Real Estate; We’re in the Business of Humanity

As we guide our businesses through these challenging times, we have never lost sight of our real purpose. Our purpose is to enrich community through human engagement… and yes, it will be different. But we will – and always will be – in the business of humanity.

If EDENS can offer a place for those moments of connection – these brief glimpses of humanity, I know we are following through with our purpose.