The real estate market across nearly every major metro is booming, and the appeal of suburban areas is expected to continue. A recent survey by the New Home Trends Institute found that 95 percent of master plan developers report demand as ‘hot’ or ‘on fire.’ Master-planned communities sell a lifestyle as much as a new home, and amenities can create differentiation from other new developments and the resale market. With KGA’s team currently working on various amenity projects for new home neighborhoods, now is a great time to look at design trends that cater to evolving homebuyer preferences.
Create Resident-Driven Community Centers
Not a One-Size-Fits-All
There is no formula for creating recreational spaces in master-planned communities. The demographics of targeted buyer profiles should drive the design, not the other way around. An emphasis on authentic architecture is a natural focus of community center design, along with a focus on integrating site-specific features, like terrain, views, habitats, or the land’s history or heritage.
For established communities, resident needs can drive the design of community amenities. The popular Southshore master plan in Aurora, CO, already offered a large resort-style community center, but its continued growth required a second to support resident activities and programs. To better serve the residents, the new amenity building will take a more kid-friendly, family-oriented approach while the original community center will shift to focus on adult and 55+ activities. Our team designed the new space to accommodate a variety of recreational opportunities for the whole family, from poolside and water activities to events and fitness classes.
There has also been a noticeable shift away from large centralized clubhouses to smaller activity-driven spaces woven throughout communities. “We are for sure seeing an increase in outdoor and covered spaces across communities,” said Deana Vidal, manager of design trends at the New Homes Trends Institute. “Features include nature-forward play spaces, open-air fitness, creative kids parks, and areas that support the bike craze.”
As people continue migrating from cities to suburbs, they’re seeking a quieter lifestyle and a larger home without sacrificing the social opportunities and entertainment they’re accustomed to in urban areas. Families also want to create the vacation experience at home, now more than ever. There’s a reason why ‘pool’ was the most popular Zillow search term in 2020! Thoughtfully designed amenities within master-planned communities offer a wholesome and activity-oriented lifestyle only a short walk away. Recreation centers with destination-style features like outdoor game areas, pools with cabanas, fire pits, water slides, and splash pads are some of the many ways to create a getaway feel close to home.
Health and Wellness
Health and safety concerns have been brought to the forefront of community planning during the pandemic. Today’s community centers should be flexible enough to accommodate groups and events both large and small, and indoors and outdoors. Larger clubhouses and indoor areas should include multiple smaller gathering spaces with partitions for distancing and privacy. Consider modular design features like movable wall systems, screens, artwork, and greenery to create ‘space frames’ to allow for privacy and distancing.
Activate Amenities With Events and Programs
Part of the appeal of master-planned communities is the promise of a more connected and social lifestyle. A year-round event calendar centered in and around a community’s amenities offers a desirable lifestyle to residents and differentiation and marketing potential to the developer. Get families outdoors, away from their screens, and enjoying themselves in their beautiful community—the original social network!
Events and programs foster a sense of community and are a fantastic way to provide prospective buyers the opportunity to envision their lives in the neighborhood. For established communities, bringing in the YMCA or other local organizations can breathe life into existing amenities. For new communities, a community director can act as both ambassador and event planner. Their onsite presence creates a connection with residents and helps tailor programming that aligns with their interests and the community’s brand or theme.
Create an Outdoor Lifestyle
The trend of shifting from massive enclosed clubhouses to covered outdoor spaces was underway well before the onset of the pandemic. Now, with more people planning to continue working from home, developers can offer appealing outdoor amenities that get people out of the home office and connected with their neighbors in ways that encourage health and well-being.
In our design of the Candelas Swim & Fitness Club in Arvada, CO, we oriented the structure to maximize mountain views and open sightlines to neighboring open spaces and play structures to encourage movement between indoor and outdoor destinations. In your own planning, consider adding easy outdoor access to your clubhouse with moving glass wall systems or large bi-fold glass doors that allow residents to flow in and out.
Outdoor venues can be large and small, covered and uncovered, to accommodate a variety of community gatherings like holiday celebrations, campouts, food festivals, and concerts in the park.
“It’s more about creating serendipitous locations for people to meet so that interactions don’t feel forced,” said Vidal. Pocket parks, covered picnic areas, tot lots, small splash pads, community gardens, small green spaces for lawn games—all offer many informal opportunities for people to meet up, socialize, and have fun.
Bridge Generational Gaps Through Amenities
Interest in multi-generational living was becoming popular before the pandemic and has only grown since early 2020. Extended families are opting to live under one roof or close by in the same community. Responsive master plan developers have successfully pivoted their product assortment to include homes to accommodate various life stages and price points. Reimagining community amenities must occur alongside this shift to address multiple generations living in the same community and enjoying recreational pursuits alongside each other.
Offer mature buyers activities they can enjoy by themselves or with their extended families:
- Bocce ball
- All-ages putting greens
- Outdoor race track around a pocket park
- Ponds for skipping stones with fun distance markers
Trails and Transportation Systems That Create Community
The great outdoors continues to beckon all ages, and developers in tune with buyer interests can answer the call through features that encourage active lifestyles. Trail systems can meander around protected open space while bridging neighborhoods, parks, clubhouses, and restaurants/retail to encourage walking and reduce car reliance. Interpretive natural trails with educational signage about local habitats or historical events connect residents to the land’s heritage. Even regular placement of benches or other outdoor furnishings will encourage people to stop, breathe, and enjoy a view.
Bicycle use has always been popular and has become a bonafide craze during the pandemic. Developers can make the most of this trend by creating activity-specific amenities, like outdoor bike repair stations, designated bike lanes, or even a bike share or rental program.
Offer Work From Home Alternatives
Make remote work outside the home inviting and productive by designating covered or open-air workspaces throughout the community. Give residents a change of scenery with private cafe-style spaces in community centers, outdoor seating with market umbrellas, or cozy nooks in pocket parks—all located in WiFi zones or hotspots spread out in the community for easy access. Design shared spaces that can transform into temporary work areas with movable wall systems and modular furnishings. Adding flexibility to amenity design will create value now and as residents’ future needs change.
Amenity design for master-planned communities is a balance of demographic preferences and feasibility. Options are limitless and always evolving. In our experience working with master plan developers, amenity considerations are also site-specific and encourage creativity in complementing the unique attributes of the site. No matter where you are in your development planning, we’re here to help!