Baldwin Park

COE Winner for Best Website and Internet Communication, Larger Community

Baldwin Park:

 

A Complete Communications Package

by Kathy Danforth

Baldwin Park, an expansive Orlando community covering 1100 acres, has won the Best Website and Internet Communications 2010 Communities of Excellence award for larger communities. With over 4000 homes and a commercial Village Center to communicate with, the property owners association has continued to improve their website and weekly e-mail blasts in response to the community's input and needs.

Baldwin Park is located two miles from downtown Orlando, and Community Director Susan Comisky says, "The developer planned a community where residents can walk to stores, restaurants, parks, and pools. Some residents rarely leave the community because everything they need is here." With its central commercial area, schools, parks, and a mix of single family homes, condominiums, townhomes, and apartments, Baldwin Park has succeeded in offering a complete community in a variety of price ranges. “It is inviting to singles, families, and empty nesters, and being a former naval base offers a lot of military history," Comisky adds.
The association's website began in 2002 when the community was first established. Though the association also publishes a bi-monthly magazine, Comisky states, "Everything is more time-sensitive on the community website. Once someone gets on the website, they can find out almost anything they want to know about the community."
The website contains basic community information including committees, contacts, documents, board meeting minutes, Neighborhood Watch tips, hurricane preparation information, and more. The public can view a limited amount of information, but most specific information can only be accessed by residents.
The home page provides access to directories for various community functions to help direct residents in the right direction for their needs. Comisky notes, "With so many facets, it's sometimes hard for people to understand what the different associations are responsible for. We have a quarterly orientation for new residents to explain the different sub-associations and how the community governance is set up, who you go to if you live in a condominium or townhome, how you get set up on the network to have access, and more. In addition, we try to have articles in the magazine and on the network on which association is responsible for specific areas within the community."
One of the primary features is the community calendar, which lists board meetings, committee meetings, classes for residents, and upcoming events occurring in the area. These may be sponsored by the association, merchants, the schools, or other groups in the area. "The Arthritis Foundation did a Jingle Bell Run in December, which is not sponsored by the association but is still advertised because it is in Baldwin Park," Comisky points out.
"The calendar gives not just a list but a description of activities," she adds. The association sponsors several major events during the year, from seasonal holiday celebrations to porch sales. They also sponsor resident-led activities when someone volunteers to organize a particular event. "The resident-led chili cook-off was a huge success," Comisky says, as well as the Doggie Derby, patterned after the Kentucky Derby. The 4th of July fireworks display was led by residents and had 6000 people in attendance.
Reservations for the gathering rooms are handled online. "There is no charge for the gathering rooms because we want residents to be able to utilize what's here. It’s an added value,” Comisky notes. "It is convenient for the residents to go on the website and see when the rooms are available and then set up the reservation."
Classified ads are another popular feature. There is no charge, and there are no current plans to sell advertising on the site. "Home sales are advertised through local realtor websites," Comisky explains.
The "Meet Your Neighbor" feature introduces fellow residents with a story of interest. Comisky comments, "Right now it's about two residents whose dog has a rare form of lymphoma and they've been hunting for a cure. A couple of weeks ago the little girl who was the poster child for the Arthritis Jingle Bell Run was featured." Since the feature is popular, the weekly e-mail blasts may include a "Meet Your Neighbor" teaser with a link to refer people to the website for the complete story.
The website has been used to conduct surveys that have provided useful information. "We do a communications survey every year because we want to make sure that what we were doing with the website, e-mail blasts, and magazine is what people want. One point that was made last year was that by the time you receive an e-mail on Friday you've already planned your weekend, so we moved the blasts to Wednesday. It makes sense—we just needed someone to tell us that," Comisky says. "The activities survey is very helpful in planning events. People said they wanted concerts in the park and we did it. But then when we asked if they wanted it for the price it costs, they said 'no’ so none are planned for this coming year.”
In 2009 the site was revised for a fresher look, easier navigation, and online bill pay. "We track to determine if anything needs to be moved, since there's only so many things you can put on a home page," Comisky remarks. "For example, the traffic committee does not fall under the association’s responsibilities, but it affects the people who live in Baldwin Park and gets a lot of questions so we moved it to where it could be more easily accessed on the home page.

For their weekly e-blasts, Comisky reports, "We have about 2200 e-mails that go out." Residents sign up to receive them, and Comisky would love to increase the number who visit the website and receive e-mails. She acknowledges, "There's always going to be a percentage of residents who don’t have the time or don’t want to be involved in neighborhood events."
With a large, diverse population, communication will take many forms. Baldwin Park is continuing to enhance their communication package with a focus on their website as the complete, up-to-date resource. Come visit at www.baldwinparknetwork.com!