Finding inspiration in Milan: The first neighbourhood to get LEED and WELL certifications


By Annie Verrier, President and Founder, Performa Marketing


When anyone mentions Milan, fashion is what usually comes to mind. But having just been there, I now know that the city has so much more to offer: innovation, design, architecture, sustainability, wellbeing. I was completely unprepared for all of its hidden treasures. One of my favourites was the Porta Nuova district. It’s the first neighbourhood in the world to achieve both LEED and WELL certifications!


Before my trip, I’d already read about the Bosco Verticale tower  (2014), but I didn’t realize that a neighbourhood with nearly 200,000 m² of green space had popped up around this vertical forest. Seeing this incredible district really got me thinking about bold projects that push boundaries with a whole new vision.




4 pillars to the district’s success


1. Holistic vision: sustainable, bold and inspiring

2. Major investment
3. Strong brand image supported by on-point copywriting
4. Immersive experience




1. Holistic vision


a) Sustainable vision


Porta Nuova is an outstanding example of urban renovation and is the first district in the world to receive both LEED and WELL certifications (2022) as a testament to its social, environmental and economic sustainability. A wide range of criteria were taken into account, including the fact that most local buildings are LEED-certified and the whole area is fossil fuel-free thanks to a geothermal system. WELL certification looks at the community’s physical and mental wellbeing.


b) Bold vision


Redeveloping the district wasn’t easy, particularly because of a railroad and the disjointed nature of the urban areas, which had been managed separately for over a century. What’s more, the people behind the project had to fight the public’s memories of past revitalization attempts initiated by Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s controversial former president. Not to mention the fact that Italians generally lack enthusiasm for contemporary architecture. In short, there were plenty of obstacles on Milan’s journey to a modernized image. They needed a strong vision to bring it all together!


c) Inspiring vision


The city’s transformation, which would go on to win the Best City Wallpaper* Design Award 2019, started back in 2004. The initial project kicked off in anticipation of the rush surrounding Expo 2015. The plan was to redevelop the city’s industrial zone and create new residential, commercial, cultural and tourist areas interspersed with large green spaces and pedestrian and cycling corridors. The innovative momentum is still going strong and the city is now looking forward to hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.

2. Major investment


Does investing in a city actually attract residents and workers? The stats are telling. According to published data, Milan real estate values increased by 17.5%—well above the national average—in the first half of 2022.


> In 2015, the Qatar Investment Authority became 100% owner of the Porta Nuova district, having held 40% of it since 2013. At the time, the market value of the 25-building district was €2 billion (source).

> In 2022, the total investment amounted to more than €11 billion (source).

> Apartments in the Bosco Verticale tower, which in 2012 started at €3,000/m² (with prices increasing for homes on higher levels), had quadrupled in price by 2019 and were selling for €12,000/m² to €15,000/m². According to designer Stefano Boeri, the building’s signature trees accounted for about 5% the total construction costs (source).



3. Strong brand image supported by on-point copywriting


a) Name and visual identity


In addition to the good planning, architecture and greenery, the project’s success was buoyed by its branding. The Porta Nuova name is effectively aligned with its graphic symbol. The idea is simple, yet effective and makes the connection between the historic gateway—which is still there today—and the new, modern district.


b) Strong social media presence


Social media profiles were created for the neighbourhood, including an Instagram account that now has nearly 10,000 followers. The district regularly posts captivating content that stays consistent with the brand’s DNA.




c) Structured writing and tone


The brand’s personality shines through the carefully crafted copywriting. Here are some of the lines appearing on outdoor advertising and online:

> Always open
> Be open for … connecting, learning, breathing, shopping
Where spaces are for everyone
> Portanuova is a neighborhood that surprises you every day.

> A place that’s always on the move, to be experienced together (courtesy translation)




4. Immersive experience


a) Creating a place that showcases the brand’s DNA every day


BAM public park is a 10-hectare space that includes a botanical garden, La Biblioteca degli Alberi (Library of the Trees), a number of free services and a rich program of activities promoting physical health, healthy eating, music, art and social involvement. The park is home to roughly 10 circular forests, each dedicated to a different plant species, as well as numerous beds of aromatic herbs, aquatic plants and perennial flowers.


This park is proof that you don’t need to leave the city or spend a lot of money to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday urban life. It shows how urban reforestation can create a sense of community and promote wellness instead of consumerism. In fact, trees have even become Milan’s new ambassadors since the city hosted the World Forum on Urban Forests.




b) A place to gather and live


The local community plays a big part in driving the vitality of any neighbourhood. In Porta Nuova, this was the case right from the planning stage. Community leaders came forward and helped shape the project’s vision. Building a beautiful neighbourhood isn’t just about architecture; it’s about creating a living environment that balances practical needs and leisure activities.

c) Developing a livable neighbourhood based on LEED and WELL principles

> Promote self-sufficiency (work, entertainment, nature, shopping, education, etc.)
> Target a diverse population (mix of social classes, cultural backgrounds and generations)
> Facilitate public and active transportation
> Fit into the surroundings and be sensitive to the area’s history
> Choose durable, timeless components
> Set the stage for memorable experiences and wellness with features like artworks and designer street furniture
> Select businesses based on their values and missions
> Maximize green space
> Etc.

d) Audit, strategy and creation


At Performa, we’ve had the chance to contribute to the marketing for a number of neighbourhoods, including Village Champlain in Gatineau (by Brigil) and Esplanade Quartier 3 in Montreal (by Prével). In our experience, a successful project starts with performing an audit to identify the various issues at stake and seeking input from all project stakeholders, including community members, elected officials, designers, etc.


Once the analysis is complete, you can let your creativity flow and develop a plan based on concrete facts and real needs. Next comes the creation of a strong brand identity, paired with a unique marketing strategy and appropriate lead acquisition campaigns. Following these steps will ensure an optimal return on investment.










Milan has become one of the most sustainable and attractive cities in the world, not just as a tourist destination but also, and above all else, as a place to live. Times change and priorities evolve. Today’s real estate developers are increasingly focusing on quality of life. I’ve noticed that our real estate clients are interested in collaboration, in hearing from the public and in meeting the needs of future generations. To all those dedicated to building inspiring projects, thank you and bravo!



By Annie Verrier, President and Founder, Performa Marketing


Writing support : Julie Villeneuve

Art direction and illustration : Alex Nereuta Behance / Instagram

Header photo credit : ThePlan 



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