25 Oct 2020 Spa Business Handbook

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Spa Business Handbook - Living Well

Wellness Communities

Living Well

Wellness communities are on the rise as developers, investors, consumers and governments start to see the benefits of living spaces dedicated to health. Jane Kitchen takes a closer look at the growing market

Jane Kitchen, Spa Business
Wellness communities like ReGen include a connection to food production EFFEKT Architects

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) has estimated wellness real estate to be a US$118.6bn (€107bn, £95bn) sector that’s growing at a rate of nearly 20 per cent, with communities cropping up worldwide. This has spurred a GWI Initiative on wellness communities, as well as the first dedicated research report on the subject, to be released at the 2017 Global Wellness Summit.

The GWI Initiative developed a white paper that has helped to define the category. In order to deem a community “well”, it must feature some kind of environmental consciousness, with sustainable development and operating practices; have a commitment to holistic health and wellness; and foster social connections. Spas can feature front-and-centre in these developments, and many include substantial wellness centres on-site.

“With the development of this market, spas and the spa lifestyle have the opportunity to serve at the heart of the community,” says Mia Kyricos, chair of the GWI Initiative on wellness communities and founder of strategic advisory firm Kyricos & Associates.

Finding connections, whether it’s through community activities, spending time in nature or intergenerational living, is something wellness communities aim to nourish – and that is appealing to developers. Kyricos says she expects the sector to grow. “This isn’t just an underserved market for a select few; it’s a major market opportunity that spans all income levels and geographies,” she says.

In the following pages, we highlight some of the biggest communities across the world.

Wellness communities - North America - Serenbe

Near Atlanta, Georgia
Opening: in phases, from 2005

Serenbe broke ground on its first house in 2004, and today the community is home to more than 400 residents. Each of Serenbe’s four hamlets have different commercial centres focused on the elements of a well life: arts for inspiration, agriculture for nourishment, health for wellbeing, and education for awareness.
The community features a strong connection to nature, with miles of trails connecting homes, an edible landscape and acres of preserved forests and meadows – all with homes specifically designed for community living.

Plans are underway for a major destination spa of around 30,000sq ft (2,787sq m) alongside a boutique hotel. Serenbe founder Steve Nygren says he’s creating a “village of wellness”.


Connection to nature and community are strong at Serenbe

Connection to nature and community are strong at Serenbe

Connection to nature and community are strong at Serenbe

Near Asheville, North Carolina
Opening: through 2027

Between 300 and 350 homes are being built along the French Broad River near Asheville, North Carolina, over the next ten years, in a wellness community described as an “agrihood in the making.” Olivette Farm – an on-site organic farm – preceded the development, and is designed to affirm the community’s commitment to re-localising food production. At peak production, the farm will feed 175 families. The community also features edible gardens and landscaping, berry and fruit orchards, and honey bees, as part of its ‘plough-to-pantry’ philosophy.

A large portion of the land at Olivette is preserved for hiking trails and green space, with more than 10 miles of interior hiking trails and an eight-acre community park on the French Broad River. “Blue Mind” points are also being developed throughout the community, to create places where people can connect with the water.


An on-site organic farm is re-localising food production
GOCO Retreat Temescal Valley

Opening: 2019

GOCO Hospitality is developing a wellness community next to Glen Ivy Hot Springs, which it acquired last year. GOCO Retreat Temescal Valley will include residences and townhomes, a wellness hotel and a boutique lifestyle hotel.

A full-service wellness centre will be on-site with 30 to 40 treatment rooms, thermal experiences and hot springs bathing. Additionally, there will be a medi-spa, fitness centre, yoga and mind/body studios, meeting rooms, a wedding chapel, community village, farmer’s market, kids’ club, organic farm and experience learning centre, and a hospitality academy and training centre.

Wellness programmes and journeys will be offered, with a full-service retreat with doctors and specialist consultants at arrival, a variety of treatments, fitness activities and learning workshops. A wellness restaurant, tea lounge and juice bar will offer farm-to-table cuisine and personalised food menus.


GOCO Retreat Temescal Valley will be located next to Glen Ivy Hot Springs

Seattle, Washington
Opening: ongoing, from 2012

Located on Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Grow Community is being developed with a sustainability action plan and a goal of community connection, smaller carbon footprints and increased health and wellbeing.

A total of 142 homes are being built in three phases; phase one is complete, and work is underway on phase two. The emphasis is on creating a compact, neighbourly community with shared green spaces, and essential services and facilities located within a short walk or cycle ride of all the homes. When it’s fully developed, Grow will provide more than 50 per cent open space, including myriad garden options for enriched community connection.

The first phase of Grow was completed in 2014, and residents have been living there since 2012. In the first three years, residents reported an 85 per cent increase in walking and a 30 per cent increase in cycling, and 65 per cent of residents participated in communal gardening. Three-quarters of households reported improved physical or mental wellbeing compared to where they lived before.


The emphasis at Grow is on creating a compact, neighbourly community with shared green spaces

The emphasis at Grow is on creating a compact, neighbourly community with shared green spaces

The emphasis at Grow is on creating a compact, neighbourly community with shared green spaces
Prairie Crossing

Grayslake, Illinois
Opened: 1992

First opened in 1992, Prairie Crossing was designed to combine the preservation of open land, easy commuting by rail and responsible development practices, and includes a 100-acre working organic farm.

Ten principles established by the community’s founders have guided Prairie Crossing since its inception: environmental protection and enhancement, a healthy lifestyle, a sense of place, a sense of community, economic and racial diversity, convenient and efficient transportation, energy conservation, lifelong learning and education, aesthetic design and high-quality construction and economic viability.

The community’s landscape was designed with native plants that purify stormwater and enhance the habitat for wildlife, 10-mile trails for exercising, and a 20-acre lake for swimming, boating and fishing. An edible landscape includes a wide variety of fruit and nuts to harvest.


A sense of community is key at Prairie Crossing
Destination Medical Center

Rochester, Minnesota
Project: started in 2014, continuing for 20 years

Destination Medical Center is a US$5.6bn, 20-year economic development initiative that aims to make the entire city of Rochester, Minnesota, a global destination for health and wellness.

The project will see the expansion of the world-renowned medical centre, the Mayo Clinic, and will also provide healthy community features for both local residents and the clinic’s patients and visitors. Public investment of US$585m will help develop housing in downtown Rochester, near Mayo Clinic, as well as health and wellness activities.

The Discovery Square area borrows from Mayo Clinic’s integrated care model to create an integrated district founded in the principles of translational medicine, and aims to position Rochester as the “Silicon Valley of Medicine,” bringing doctors and researchers together and driving job growth.


The Discovery Square area aims to position Rochester as the ‘Silicon Valley of Medicine’
Lake Nona

Orlando, Florida
Opening: ongoing, from 2000

Lake Nona, near Orlando, Florida, is a collaborative effort between Florida Hospital and University of Central Florida, and is home to the Lake Nona Institute, a non-profit, community-focused organisation with an aim to inspire healthy, sustainable communities of the future. More than 50,000 people lived there as of 2015, and estimates have the population at 75,000 to 100,000 by 2020.

The 17-square-mile planned residential community near Orlando is a “living laboratory,” designed to feature clusters of innovation and centres of excellence in health and wellbeing, sports, human performance and education. The design incorporates trails, bike sharing, green space, community programmes and group activities.

Lake Nona is also home to the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute – where executives and athletes learn how to improve their health, energy levels and mental sharpness – and the Sanford-Burnham institute, which conducts research on obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Lake Nona anticipates adding a medically integrated fitness centre and a hotel with a spa and wellbeing centre. Spa consultancy WTS International has worked on the analysis and planning for the proposed Lake Nona Spa, which will include a “concept without borders.”


PHOTOS: John Dolan

Bike-sharing is one way Lake Nona encourages healthy living

Community programmes, social connections and group activities are all part of Lake Nona

Community programmes, social connections and group activities are all part of Lake Nona

Community programmes, social connections and group activities are all part of Lake Nona

Community programmes, social connections and group activities are all part of Lake Nona
Tres Santos

Todos Santos, Mexico
Opening: ongoing, first phase, 2017

Located in the historic coastal fishing and farming town of Todos Santos, Tres Santos is described as “an intimate mindful living village”. The development includes a 3.5-mile bike and pedestrian path connecting the village to the beach, as well as a 1.5-acre organic town garden with winding paths, an orchard and farm-to-table restaurant.

Tres Santos includes outdoor wellness activities such as surfing, yoga, biking, walking, swimming and trekking. While it doesn’t yet have plans for an on-site spa, Elizabeth Shapiro, a spokesperson for the development, says they are in talks with several spa operators and “that’s definitely something we’re interested in doing.”


Tres Santos is described as ‘an intimate mindful living village’

Tres Santos is described as ‘an intimate mindful living village’

Tres Santos is described as ‘an intimate mindful living village’
GOCO Retreat Dawson Lake

West Virginia
Opening: unconfirmed

GOCO Hospitality is creating a GOCO Retreat across 750 acres (304 hectares) in the West Virginia countryside, not far from Washington, DC. The project focuses heavily on the area’s natural mineral springs, and will include both a 70-bedroom wellness hotel and 150 houses. Ingo Schweder, GOCO Hospitality CEO, said he expects the homes to attract busy city dwellers in Washington, DC, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who are looking for a second-home escape.

An on-site 4,000sq m (43,056sq ft) spa will include mineral spring bathing and other wellness activities, including canoeing, hiking, biking and horseback riding, will be incorporated in the Retreat.

Schweder said he is also in talks with a DC-based sustainable think tank to be anchored to the Retreat, and that he expects the location to be a space for politicians to escape for off-site meetings. The Retreat is in the masterplanning stage; an opening date has not been set.

Wellness communities - ASIA - Sangha

Suzhou, China
Opened: 2017

New York City-based architecture practice Tsao & McKown recently designed Sangha, a 19-hectare (47-acre) luxury wellness retreat along Yangcheng Lake, located just outside Suzhou, China. The health-focused lifestyle resort includes a 69-bedroom wellness hotel, a 6,000sq m (64,583sq ft) spa, a learning campus, as well as a collection of four-bedroom residential villas and apartments.

The wellness hotel offers a platform for wellbeing works, including an integrated medicine assessment and treatment centre, mind-body practice, coaching and counselling, spa, medi-spa and mindful dining. The spa offers treatments ranging from massages to colonics, as well as a hammam, wet spa, steam room, saunas and night walks.


Sangha includes a wellness hotel, 6,000sq m spa, on-site living and a learning campus

Sangha includes a wellness hotel, 6,000sq m spa, on-site living and a learning campus

Sangha includes a wellness hotel, 6,000sq m spa, on-site living and a learning campus
Q’ in Wellness

Hainan, China
Opening: late 2018

Q’in Wellness, located on the island province of Hainan, China, will include 1,000 homes, a residents club, a 110-bedroom resort and a 10,000sq m (108,000sq ft) spa. Destination Spa Management (DSM) provided concept planning for the project and will manage the wellness space.

Spa services will be sold as all- inclusive packages to make them easier for clients to understand. Packages will consist of diagnostics; holistic health, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and international rejuvenation medicine; physiotherapy; fitness/spa; beauty/grooming; and non-invasive cosmetic procedures.


Destination Spa Management provides concept planning for the project
GOCO Retreat Ubud

Ubud, Indonesia
Opening: early 2018

GOCO Retreat Ubud will be set on a 18-hectare (44-acre) site and will include 76 wellness real-estate units as well as 83 retreat guestrooms. A substantial wellness centre with 45 treatment rooms, as well as consultation rooms, TCM rooms, an ayurvedic centre, nursing facilities, a medi-spa, fitness studios, outdoor salas and an extensive outdoor rainforest bathing area will be on-site.

The Balinese retreat’s wellness amenities are being built to green building standards, with a design that minimises the need for air-conditioning. Air purification systems, water purification, lighting designed to work with the body’s internal clock, and encouragement of general physical activity are all present in the project’s design.

Also on tap are a wellness restaurant, tea lounge, thermal bathing, café, farm-to-table restaurant, food stalls, cultural gallery, retail outlets, cooking school, artists’ studios, aromatherapy distillery, organic farm, organic gardens, amphitheatre, kids’ club and jogging and bike trails.

The retreat will deliver integrative wellness programmes and use professional consultations to prescribe specialty treatments, along with focused nutrition and exercise. Treatments will combine Asian traditions and knowledge with contemporary Western medical science.


The retreat will deliver integrative wellness programmes
GOCO Retreat Khao Yai

Khao Yai, Thailand
Opening: Q4 2017

Global spa and wellness company GOCO Hospitality is creating a mixed-use wellness community in Khao Yai’s wine country, two hours north of Bangkok.

The community will be managed by GOCO and will include a 36-suite wellness retreat along with 48 wellness condominiums and 159 condominiums and large-scale residences. GOCO Retreat Khao Yai will also offer a retail village and community park. Bangkok-based Tierra Design is also working on the project.


Goco Retreat Khao Yai will be located in Thailand’s wine country, north of Bangkok
Wellness communities - europe - GOCO Retreat Kaiserhof Rügen

Rügen, Germany
Opening: 2018

GOCO Hospitality has plans to develop a GOCO Retreat on the German island of Rügen, located on the Baltic Sea coast and known for its sandy beaches, quiet lagoons and dramatic peninsulas. Subject to planning permission, the GOCO Retreat Kaiserhof Rügen will be located on a hill in the southeastern part of the island, on a site originally owned by the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck.

Designed by Berlin-based Frank Architectural Design, the mixed-use wellness development will include a 50-bedroom wellness retreat and 54 wellness condominiums, and will offer views over the famous Sellin Pier and the Baltic Sea. The 3,544sq m (38,147sq ft) on-site wellness centre will include 42 treatment rooms, heat and water experiences, a medi-spa, gym, mind and body studio, health restaurant, tea lounge, library and meeting and learning spaces.


The development will have views of the famous Sellin Pier
ReGen Village

Almere, the Netherlands
Opening: 2018

ReGen Villages is a tech-integrated real-estate development company that’s creating a new kind of wellness community – a regenerative model for eco-communities with self-sustaining energy and food. The first pilot community is being developed in Almere, the Netherlands, with 300 homes, and other developments are also being considered across Europe, in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Belgium.

The idea for the communities is to address the challenges of a growing population, increasing urbanisation, scarcity of resources and the growing global food crisis – as well as reducing the global CO2 emission and reducing burdens on municipal and national governments. ReGen aims to create a sense of community, reconnect people with nature and consumption with production, and restore biodiversity to the surrounding landscapes. “We like to think of ReGen as the Tesla of ecovillages,” says founder James Ehrlich. “We want to make it easy, convenient and accessible to choose a sustainable lifestyle off the grid.”

A community centre will include a piazza kitchen and space for yoga, meditation and other kinds of wellness curricula, and there could be opportunities for spas to be part of the planned community.


A growing population, increasing urbanisation and scarcity of resources have inspired ReGen
Kemeri Park

Jurmula, Latvia
Opening: first stage, 2018

Latvian wellness consultancy Inbalans Group is working together with Linser Hospitality, Moscow-based international development company Griffin Partners and Jurmula City Council to develop a substantial wellness community in Latvia’s Kemeri National Park.

The wellness community, located just west of the capital of Riga, will include a five-star hotel with a 1,500sq m (16,146sq ft) spa, due to open in 2018, as well as a wellness clinic comprised of multiple historic buildings with a focus on balneotherapy treatments, which is due to open in 2022.

A public/private investment plan has been set up to revitalise the existing community, adding in activities and infrastructure to promote wellbeing and community living. Bicycle and walking routes will also be developed, and the city infrastructure will be developed using evidence-based principles of healthy communities.


The five-star hotel is being created in a historic building in Kemeri National Park
Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village

Carmarthenshire, Wales
Opening: late 2019

The Welsh government is funding a master plan for a wellness village in South Wales. The Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village is just one of a number of projects being delivered through ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health), a partnership between three local university health boards.

Llanelli Wellness Village will include an education centre to deliver training and skills development in the wellbeing arena; a wellness hotel; a sports and wellbeing centre; and an Institute of Life Science (ILS) focusing on near market-ready research and innovation and business facilities. There will also be communities focused on healthy living, rehabilitation and respite, including suitable living environments for people with disabilities to live with their families. A community health hub offering primary and community care will also be on-site.

Wellness communities - Middle east / Africa - Blue Rock Village

Cape Town, South Africa
Opening: unconfirmed

A car-free village in Cape Town is envisioned as “a pioneer for an exciting new standard of living.” The project is worth an estimated R14bn (US$900m, €790.5m, £631m) and will include luxury apartments, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, a hotel, a spa centre offering therapeutic treatments, and a multi-functional ‘Life Style Centre’ hosting concerts, operas and markets.

Wellness will be high on the agenda, with the outdoor design emphasising the planting of trees and greenery. Landscaped trails will encourage walking and facilities including a gym, yoga centre swimming pool, and therapeutic and medical centres are planned.


The community will include nature trails, yoga and therapeutic and medical centres

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2017 edition

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