Long-term view key to development


July 18, 2008|By ILYCE GLINK

There are walking trails, swimming pools and tennis courts. The landscape is well maintained. If you didn't know better, you might think you were walking the grounds of a lovely resort.

Janet Heilman says that what she likes best about Cinco Ranch, the development in Katy, Texas, where she bought a house 12 years ago, is the consistency of the community. And that good schools are within walking distance.

Community is also important to Michele Davis, who lives with her husband, Joe, and their two children in FishHawk Ranch in Tampa, Fla.

"It just had a feeling of kind of a small community," she said. "It is really convenient. We've got really nice grocery stores, dry cleaners, coffee places and pizza places. It's not unusual for my husband and me to walk up to get dinner. There are concerts in the summer."

The big challenge in community design is creating something that will remain popular, planners say. It means following trends that emerge and mature, and translating them into a design that works as the population evolves.

Robert McLeod, chief executive officer of Newland Communities in San Diego, said homebuyers are leading more active lives, a trend that communities cannot afford to ignore.

When thinking about community design trends for a huge, long-term development, the focus must be on long-term strategic planning, said Robert Folzenlogen, director of planning and design for AllianceTexas, a 17,000-acre master-planned, mixed-use development built by Hillwood Properties in north Texas.

Folzenlogen said he looks at where market trends are headed, the political landscape, prospective infrastructure and land issues, and how the company needs to prepare for the continuing development of AllianceTexas.

"We see more people caring about the environment and wanting to do something right for the environment," he said. "The big component for the people we're trying to attract is the quality of materials, from the buildings to the surroundings. Our future tenants also want to be part of a community and have the ability to walk to recreational, retail and employment areas."

A trend that is being closely watched at Pulte Home's Del Webb division is active baby boomers who are becoming active seniors.

"We see a lot of active adults who are continuing to work. A lot more are working from home and longer in life," said Sam Colgan, president of Pulte Home's Phoenix West Valley Division. "The integration of technology [into the home] has become very important to them. They want a chance to balance that with the recreational side of an early retirement."

Anticipating trends allows communities to thrive as they age.

Good community design can solve a number of problems and let residents reinvent themselves.

"We have a lot of people who we sell homes to who say, 'I'm not a joiner or a club person. I like the golf course.' And we check in with the same people many years later and they have a whole new group of friends. Their family status changes, but the social environment [of the community] allows them to continue on to the next stage of life," Colgan said.

Asked what life is like in Estrella, the community development in Phoenix where she lives, Jackie Lavin said, "It's like a dream come true. It's a small town and homey. It has a rural feel due to the state land adjacent to us and acres and acres of walking and jogging paths.

"And the people are friendly, too."

Contact Ilyce Glink at www.thinkglink.com, by mail at Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, Ill. 60022 or by calling her radio show at 800-972-8255 from 11 a.m. to noon Sundays

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