Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Anthem: A New Tune From Del Webb
Del Webb Corp. is heading down a new corporate path in their own backyard of Arizona.
Their newest development in Arizona is aimed at families of all ages.
Del Webb Corp. is heading down a new corporate path in their own backyard of Arizona. Anthem by Del Webb, the new 5856-acre, master-planned community in the desert north of Phoenix, is the first modern-day community the company has opened without an age-restricted component. And with 361 new home orders in the first two weeks after opening, their new path seems to be built on solid ground.
|This Anthem Country Club model (top photo) showcases the extensive yet subtle landscaping of the entire community. Anthem by Del Webb is the company’s first master-planned community without an age-restricted component. The development, in the desert north of Phoenix, has been welcoming a horde of buyers since opening in late winter.|
"Planning for our first non-age-restricted community began in earnest about three years ago," says Anne Mariucci, senior vice president of in charge of family and country club communities. "It all emanated from strategic planning at the corporate level aimed at diversifying and growing our company."
Aiming squarely at one of the single largest demographic groups in the nation-the aging baby boomer-Anthem is definitely attracting a crowd. More than 23,000 visitors showed up during the first nine days following Anthem’s opening on February 27. They came to walk through the 26 model homes that will comprise the first phases of a development zoned for 14,695 homes. Homes in phase one range in price from the low $100s to the high $300s.
Much of the traffic during the opening can be directly attributed to marketing and local media exposure. "We launched probably the largest print and television campaign in Phoenix history. We figure that over 80% of our target market is familiar with Anthem," says Mariucci. "Then, during our opening days, the crowds were so large that they became a media story."
That sort of market saturation is one result of Del Webb’s considerable demographic and psychographic research practices, which have been established and refined through developing their Sun City retirement communities. Mariucci explains that during the planning stages, the company used auditorium focus groups, living room focus groups, mail and phone surveys and direct interviews with potential owners to find out who their buyers would be and what they want in a new community.
The company also employed outside consultants with impressive resumes in areas of master-planned community development, ranging from aquatic centers to market research to exterior design enhancement. "We carefully studied the most successful master-planned communities in the country, talked to demographers and futurists, and met with hundreds of prospective customers to determine our vision for Anthem," says Mariucci.
That vision includes a significant amenity package tailored for family oriented activities for everyone from infants to young adults. These include a large recreation center with an indoor basketball court and rock climbing wall, a water park, fishing lakes, golf course, kiddie railroad, athletic fields and a skate park and roller hockey rink.
Paying Their Own Way
|The welcome center at Del Webb’s first master-planned community for all ages has been seeing heavy traffic during the opening weeks.|
With increasing anti-growth sentiment in the area, a development of this size and political importance is going to draw the attention of the local media. In the case of Anthem, that turned out to be a good thing. Mariucci explains that because Anthem was on the front page of the local papers for weeks, it was the perfect opportunity for them to showcase their ideas as well as get the word out about their sizable donations and development plans.
Del Webb has invested nearly $100 million, the bulk of which is being spent on infrastructure, including nearly $20 million for a nine-mile pipeline to carry water from Lake Pleasant.
"Del Webb is doing at Anthem what everyone wants every developer to do-truly pay for growth with no burden or cost to the taxpayers," says Tom Lucas, Anthem general manager.
Since one of the hottest political issues surrounding development and anti-growth interests is school funding and bussing, the company made a $12 million donation to the local Deer Valley School District. The donation consists of a K-8 school, 50 acres of land and portions of two additional elementary school sites. To handle the increased traffic flow on I-17, Del Webb is also funding the upgrading of the nearby Desert Hills Interchange several years before the Arizona Department of Transportation scheduled it. Environmental concerns were also factored in, as 2100 acres (more than one-third of the entire development) are devoted to open spaces, including the golf course and 63-acre park. More than 14,000 native plants have been salvaged for several on-site nurseries, and existing trails and washes have been preserved, allowing for equestrian access, hiking and other trail uses. Visual impact on the environment is addressed by varying color schemes and exterior designs, low-level lighting and signage, and a diverse street theme with Craftsman, Italian and court-style homes available.
Because Anthem is not designated for retirees, the homes are logically different than those in the various Sun City developments. "We’re building larger homes with larger children’s rooms for growing families," says Lucas. The first phase of the development consists of two villages: Anthem Parkside, which is targeted at people age 25-40 with children, and Anthem Country Club which seeks to accommodate professionals age 40-50, pre-retirees and empty nesters. "We offer two divisions with eight different products in each division, with almost no overlap," explains Lucas.
For the next few months, things will be pretty busy at Anthem, because the school and several amenities are scheduled for completion as the first residents move in before the next school year begins. The company is presently doing research on which amenities to build next, all the while trying to keep up with the orders for new homes. "Building 800 homes in the next few months is our main focus," says Lucas.
|A rendering of Anthem’s community center shows the water play-park, eight-lane lap pool, and athletic fields. The 40,000-square-foot building will house a rock-climbing wall, a basketball court, exercise rooms, a teen activity station, and an 1100-square-foot child care room.|
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Before the Main Event in Phoenix, Anthem Warmed Up in Las Vegas