New-age condos with 'spiritual' services

(NYTIMES) – The Jardine apartments in Los Angeles have all the trappings of modern luxury living: touchless lifts, a rooftop gym and a pool with private cabanas.

And then there’s a more unusual amenity: a “spiritual concierge” who can set residents up with everything from full moon intention ceremonies to sound baths.

Looking to woo buyers and renters who are open to the, well, woo-woo, several new developments around the United States are offering meditation, healers, shaman and spiritual concierge programmes – taking wellness offerings several steps beyond just on-site yoga and pilates.

In an age of self-care and mental health awareness, property developers are hoping the offerings will appeal to those who have embraced spirituality as part of a wellness lifestyle. But will they scare away buyers and renters on a more traditional journey?

At Gardenhouse at 8600 Wilshire in Beverly Hills, there will be monthly spiritual experiences on-site tied to lunar cycles. A cacao ceremony – that’s a shaman-led “healing” that involves blessing and then drinking a traditional bitter chocolate, intention setting and dancing or movement – is on the menu.

There is also a “full moon intention ceremony”, where participants get to verbalise and write down in their journals things they would like to let go of. The events will take place in the building’s atrium, an architectural open-air space with black Venetian plaster walls and a huge fountain with a reflecting pool.

“It aligns with the goal of bringing wellness into the homes of our buyers,” said Mr Mike DiSilva, the Los Angeles-based development manager for the project. The 18-unit condominium also has what the developers claim is the largest living wall in America. Condo prices start at US$2.95 million (S$4 million).

Mr Eran Polack, developer of the Maverick in New York City’s Chelsea neighbourhood, was sceptical when his marketing and sales team first came to him with the idea of hiring a spiritual concierge. These concierges will not have fixed desks in building lobbies, but will be available via e-mail or phone to consult with residents upon request.

Mr Polack thought spiritual offerings could appeal to millennial buyers who want both amenities and “content”, including on-site and virtual events. Unlike providing valuable square footage for yoga decks and saunas, the spiritual concierge programme is available at no or little cost to developers. Residents generally will pay for the services themselves.

Other developers are bringing their own spiritual practices to their customers. In Columbus, Ohio, Gravity, a sprawling new development on a site with 4ha so far, includes a transcendental meditation centre that offers silent, repeated mantra.

Mr Brett Kaufman, the developer, described the project as a “conscious community”, that takes a holistic approach to a wellness lifestyle. “The physical health thing is important – we have gyms, we have trainers and yoga studios and running clubs,” he said. “But we believe we need to treat the mental health and spiritual side of things with the same level of importance.”

He said plans also called for a location for mental health professionals, therapists and life coaches called Innerspace, an on-site amenity for residents that will also be open to the public.

The project has retail space, offices and will have more than 1,000 residential units when completed, including rental apartments and co-living spaces.

Some developers and real estate agents say that in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and a year spent in near isolation, wellness messaging is more appealing than ever.

Mr Justin Alvaji, Jardine’s senior community manager, said: “We wanted our tenants to feel like the building was a sanctuary and wanted to go the extra mile.”

Ms Aree Khodai, a spiritual concierge, said she would work as connector and coach for residents participating in the new programme. It is something she has been doing informally for friends and acquaintances for years, introducing them to various shamans and vetted spiritual practitioners she knows personally through her work as a yoga teacher and healer.

In her past work, she has connected clients with everything from movement classes to edgier experiences like mushroom micro-dosing, which she described as “a journey”, with “an intention behind it and a sense of lessons and insights”.

One recent afternoon, she walked through Jardine’s US$20,000-a-month penthouse, which was staged but still unrented. She thought it could be a potential space for a healing ceremony. “It’s almost like blessing the space,” she said.

The building, which is on the Netflix campus in Hollywood, opened in May, with rents averaging around US$4,900 per month.

Mr Alvaji, of Jardine, admits that sound baths and full moon ceremonies aren’t for everyone.

“If this isn’t your cup of tea, no problem,” he said. “Just come join us next week by the pool.”

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