The other day a friend said she was confused by the concept of a “community living room” and could i better explain it. It was the perfect segue into a brief historical perspective of the community and why in the 60’s and 70’s there was such a strong sense of community. Obviously the DEVCO corporation used it (the residents) as a marketing tool. Who could better tout this new way to live better than those experiencing the joys of it on a day-to-day basis?. It was brilliant.
Think back; in the first 8 years, there was only 2 rec centers and everyone living in Sun City came from somewhere else. It was a close-knit community and Community Center (now Oakmont) and Town Hall (soon to be the newly completed Fairway) were the hub of virtually all activities. The quickly growing population gathered at each for weekly pot luck dinners and opportunities to meet and greet new residents. With DEVCO assigning ownership of those amenities to the community, the residents needed to work in concert to build an infrastructure that oversaw them. They also quickly came to understand that ownership meant they needed build a self-sustaining structure of governance and support units. Truly, an amazing time.
As noted in earlier blogs, there were internal struggles. Through it all, for the most part, people were able to work out their differences and work together. I would argue the sociability and sense of community were the tenets that pulled them through. Of course it didn’t hurt to have DEVCO’s helping hand on site to push things along. By 1968 when Mountainview rec center opened the community was running smoothly and in 1969 when they moved across Grand Ave, Sun City was on the fast track to national fame and acclaim.
If there was and still is a problem with Sun City, it is its size. With 43,000 residents, 27,000 homes and the sprawling 7 mile long and 3 mile wide community, it is almost too vast for the small town sense of belonging. One of DEVCO’s earliest promotional pieces touted Sun City “as a metropolis in miniature with a small home town feel.” As we grew out, some of that was lost. Add in today’s technologies that allow residents to stay connected to the family back home and there is most certainly a difference from the early 60’s when we more needed each other.
With that said, there is no reason we can’t set our sights on finding ways to bring the community back together. Without question, the 50th anniversary gave us a start. It would be a shame to lose the headway we made by reverting back to a fragmented community where people only cluster in their own clubs, churches and at the nearest rec center. The perfect solution would be a single gathering place, a central location where residents could drop by for a cup of coffee, read a newspaper or chat with friends.
For lack of a better term, someone coined the term “community living room.” The phrase was intended to impart a sense of being comfortable, of feeling at home. Conceptually there are details to work out, but it could be a book exchange, wifi hotspot, televisions mounted on the walls, free coffee, local newspapers, comfortable chairs, sofa’s and tables for playing cards or just socializing. We would have a community bulletin board where residents could post items for sale and clubs could promote events. Best of all, it would be one of the places realtors would stop by with potential buyers to get a feel for the community and why residents love Sun City.
Let’s be honest, there are no guarantees this would work or that people would use it. Many of the newer age restricted communities are building these suggests they are popular attractions for the coming boomer population. We know from the history of Sun City, there were a handful of items that helped both shape and sell the community. Only a fool would ignore those techniques, because the one thing that would help Sun City the most is a strong marketing program. By selling the value and the values of Sun City, we would begin to rejuvenate home sales while at the same time, build a stronger sense of community.