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How Anilesh Ahuja’s New Development Will Benefit the Next Generation of Indians

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Creating a community that will set future generations on the road to success requires the kind of urban design which often eludes city planners. But that’s exactly what makes Anilesh Ahuja’s approach to building the Solitaire Valley community in India so exciting.

The former Wall Street banker is relying on the latest research into child and development to inform his plans for a 210-acre planned community, which will combine state-of-the-art amenities and eco-friendly practices with access to opportunities and resources that will help a new generation of Indians reach greater heights.

There’s a lot to still add to society. In this case, what we are doing is we are working in tier two and tier three cities, places that are home to more of the underprivileged, undereducated people,” Anilesh Ahuja said. “In those places, we’re trying to create an aspirational environment.”

A Focus on the Future

Most planned communities and neighborhoods are built to entice wealthy or middle-class residents to relocate. Designed with families in mind, they emphasize certain resources that appeal to parents or grandparents without much thought as to how these amenities affect the development of the children.

Luckily, many of these amenities—safety, convenience, access to green space—are vital to the long-term benefits for children. However, many others, such as socioeconomic diversity and welcoming public spaces, are (sometimes purposefully) absent.

By creating a community that houses 14,000 people from all walks of life—affordable housing mixed in with luxury living quarters and middle-class homes—Anilesh Ahuja’s Solitaire Valley is priming children at every level for success.

Studies consistently show that socioeconomically diverse schools help all children develop greater senses of empathy, perform better in school, and earn more money over their lifetimes. Research published in 2015 by two Harvard scholars found that residential integration among wealthy, middle-class, and poor families is a keystone for helping children achieve long-term success.

In accordance with the research, Solitaire Valley will include single-family homes that range from 100- to 250-square-yard footprints, with 10 percent of the housing allotted for lower-income families, 30 percent reserved for middle-class to lower-middle-class people, and the rest set aside for upper-middle-class and wealthier residents.

The result will be a community that is not segregated by socioeconomic lines, Ahuja said. Instead, all children will learn and grow together, reaping the benefits that experts say will help them become more understanding, empathetic, and tactful as they age.

“There is only one school in the township, and we will hire an expert to run it. We are real estate developers, so we will build it, but we will have an expert person who has had a lot of success with running schools to come and run it for the community,” he said. “At the end of the day, the community belongs to the people. We will eventually build it and walk away, but we want to make sure that the quality is sustained, so we have to create systems to make sure that the place is maintained and create systems for the kids to enjoy their childhoods.”

Thoughts About Space

In addition, Solitaire Valley is being built to combat many of the perils of the modern urban environment has on child development.

For example, the community is devoting a full 56 percent of its total area to green space. Places like parks, gardens, and trails will make up the majority of the development. Incorporating these sorts of amenities into the design for Solitaire Valley builds off research showing that time in spent in nature and green spaces produces mental health benefits in children (as well as adults), Anilesh Ahuja said.

According to UNICEF, when children grow up within walking distance to green space, they develop a vast range of benefits. Children who regularly spend time in outdoor green spaces are less likely to suffer extensively from depression stress; they tend to perform more physical activity every week; they have fewer behavioral and social problems; and they show improved academic performance.

These benefits in turn help the community that raises them by limiting the time teachers must spend disciplinary problematic students and re-covering material while also reducing parental stress.

“These are very modern concepts for where we are, very important for the future. We are doing things for the community, which is, I think, fantastic,” Ahuja said. “We are giving them space for kids to be kids, where they can play instead of just running around cars. I thought that it was very important that these are the kind of major decisions that are being made.”

The End Goal

The Solitaire Valley community may one day serve as a model for how planned communities can lead to better life outcomes for residents.

If the research is correct, more of the children raised in the development will attend college, fewer will end up in jail, and more will experience upward economic mobility.

And, hopefully, they will understand the benefits they received from a thoughtfully designed community and seek out similar places to raise their families.

“I’m very, very happy to be in building a community that will give families what they need,” Ahuja said. “We are not trying to squeeze every last dollar, but instead trying to make sure that the community gets the solutions it needs to be a thriving neighborhood.”

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