MPC Trends And Active Adults

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Randy Jackson, president of PlaceWorks, a California-based community planning and design firm, identifies trends in the design of master plans

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May 30, 2017

Builders, designers, and developers should keep active adults in mind when drawing up plans for master planned communities (MPCs) in the coming years, according to a recent report. Produced in conjunction with housing market research company Meyers Research, the home building trade show PCBC released its 2017 Trends Report on the housing industry, which covers new happenings in everything from capital markets to multifamily housing to building technology.

The report contains a section on land planning and development in which Randy Jackson, president of PlaceWorks, a California-based community planning and design firm, identifies trends in the design of master plans. He recommends that developers target active adults—a group of discretionary buyers who are choosy about their desired product types and floor plans—by including an active-adult neighborhood with up to 250 units and offering up to four different product types. 

These homes should include features such as indoor/outdoor rooms, California rooms, pop-up rooms, and double master suites.

Through research with his marketing team, Jackson found that active adults want their own amenities—private patios, and parks, pools, and walking trails with exclusive access—while still being part of a larger community. 

Designing for active adults calls for some ingenuity. “The challenge,” Jackson tells Professional Builder, “is you have to be ADA-adaptable without looking like it. You don’t want to have these 100-foot ramps heading up to the front door.”

Jackson recommends taking up grade gradually, so that buildings no longer require steps. To prevent tripping and stumbling, walking trails should have no loose material, and shaded areas, such as places with trees, overhangs, and benches, should be evenly spaced every few hundred feet.

The Skyline Ranch master plan, in Santa Clarita, Calif., is an example of these concepts, Jackson says. With a total of 1,200 units, there is a separate neighborhood of 300 units for active adults, which has its own rec center but fits within the overall fabric of the trail system. “They feel like they are a part of the community, but they can go home at night and be at their own facility overlooking the community,” Jackson says.

In addition to designing for active adults, diversification is also important in MPCs, according to Jackson. A mix of eight to 10 house products and price points in each village will lure buyers of different backgrounds and income levels. Dividing the lots into varying shapes and sizes makes it easier to design different floor plans. Offering several product types increases absorption and minimizes carry cost. Each neighborhood has a cap, which Jackson sets at between 45 and 90 units per product. This enables tighter time frames and helps to control material and labor costs. Most importantly, buyers can move in at the same time and establish a sense of community from the start. 

The PCBC report also contains sections on trends within capital markets, multifamily housing, business management and financial outlooks, home technology, and design. 

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