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7 considerations for developers of master planned communities
By: Jeremy Arnold, VP of Land Development
As the residential industry looks toward the future of master planned communities, we know that priorities are changing for our residents. Among the top priorities are environmentally-focused and active lifestyle communities.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve been part of numerous master planned communities spanning thousands of acres and residential units. A lot of the successes are market dependent, but here are seven things to consider in the development process for any master planned community.
- It all starts with a good master plan.
We design communities that focus on sustainability and incorporate the environment. In southwest Florida, specifically, we have a lot of wetlands and water management lakes that we use as features in the land plan. Some of the most beautiful elements of our master planned communities have come from creating habitat for wildlife and natural flow-ways. Rather than just clear cutting all the trees or disregarding natural elements, we place our focus on embracing the immeasurable value of the natural elements and provide that experience to the future residents. Be it biking, hiking, walking, or viewing, residents in our communities have ample opportunities to engage with their surroundings. In almost all southwest Florida communities, the surface water management master plan is the backbone of the community. This is because Florida averages more than 50” of rainfall per year and potentially a major hurricane every year. Drainage systems in our communities have experienced major storm events over the last 20 years and all have performed as designed, showing the resiliency of the development.
- Amenities program and timing
One of the most critical components to a successful master planned community is the amenity package and campus or campuses. Outdoor living, resort style, active adult, family, sports, and recreation are aspects of an amenity program that could be offered at a single campus or multiple sites throughout the development. It’s important the amenity sites are well furnished, accessible, and delivered to the residents in a timely manner. Don’t wait until the end of the project to deliver the brand-new clubhouse. Other amenities to consider are dog parks, sidewalks, and walking trails to help create the ideal community. These amenities go a long way in creating the type of community residents want to build their lives in.
- Get open for sales
The initial goal of any project is getting the community open for sales as quickly as possible. Overspending or overbuilding in the initial phases can slow or stall the process and hurt the development in the long run. A good master plan should focus on a sales center or information center near front of the community that could be constructed independently. Doing this will enable sales to begin while the balance of the development is still under construction.
- Use buffers to limit noise and substandard views
Are the neighbors going to keep the community up at night? Buffers are essential to creating the quiet, comfortable neighborhood ideal for any resident. As the master plan comes together, awareness of the ambient noise in the community is essential for creating an ideal community. If there are any kind of noise-producing establishments in the area, ensure the plan includes noise reduction in multiple ways. Buffers can include berms, walls, landscaping, or a combination of them all.
Buffers and perimeters berms can also be utilized to help shield and improve views. If you are abutting a roadway or another off-site feature that needs to be screened from the residents of your community, make sure to leave enough space in the master plan to accommodate.
- Assume residents will utilize multiple modes of transportation
Residents need multiple options for movement within and around the community, especially in highly amenitized communities. We must consider multiple modes of transportation, including bike lanes, golf carts, and multi-use paths. If you’re not considering these alternates, you can almost guarantee a traffic bottleneck that will slow residents, guests, and hurt your nearby retailers. Also consider new technology and design to accommodate EV charging stations and plan for implementation into the neighborhoods.
- Create aesthetically pleasing focal points
Avoid locating large civil site components at entrances or other focal points. Examples of these unsightly features might be sanitary sewer lift systems or large transformers. Be mindful when designing the underground utilities or the electric corridors and attempt to hide or screen the above-ground equipment. A good rule of thumb may be: if it isn’t pretty, try to hide it.
- A beautiful entrance is a powerful statement
A first impression leaves a lasting impact. We want everyone – residents, guests, or retailers – to feel as if they’re arriving at a theme park. We believe our entrances should be beautiful, impactful, informative, and easily navigated.
Master planned communities require attention to detail, thorough communication, and strong project management skills that will account for the goals of both the developer and the future residents. Developing a complete master plan and permitting strategy will help the developer save valuable time and resources, which is the difference between success and failure. Our team has a strong history of well-designed, beautifully planned communities with a speed-to-market delivery that is hard to beat. We also have the expertise and foresight to avoid complications that will slow the work or diminish the quality of product.