Design Trends

From Design to Build: Master-Planned Communities

To create a successful master-plan, you must consider various lifestyle necessities, catering to all buyer types

By Kris Maher 

A master-planned community encompasses more than the homes that make up the neighborhood. 

It’s a tapestry where homebuyers spend time working, heading out for a run and taking their family dog out for an afternoon walk. It’s where family dinners happen and where people create their lives. 

As master-planners, we think about all of this because we understand we aren’t just building homes, we are creating a complete community. 

From integrating retail centers and schools to churches and green space, we must consider all of the pieces that make a master-planned community successful, and most importantly – a place residents and businesses want to call home. 

Having worked in the architecture and homebuilding sectors for more than 30 years, there are key elements that help make a successful master-planned community.

Here are a few components you should look toward when creating a new community: 

Focus on Lifestyle and Green Space

Lifestyle exceeds physical accommodation.

Residents crave connection and it is our job to help foster and create opportunities for them to connect. 

Through amenities such as recreational facilities, clubhouses and community parks to resident-focused programming such as neighborhood clubs, events and volunteer projects, we encourage a sense of community by bringing people together and redefining what home means. 

While the general trend is to build more affordable homes, this naturally means denser living and smaller outdoor spaces. However, we pivot and focus on creating additional communal spaces and extra amenities that will align with the lifestyle of our homebuyers. 

You can never have too much insight or be too informed. Data is one of the keys to building and planning a successful community.”

Additionally, natural terrain has become more prized than ever. People have discovered a much deeper and authentic connection to the outdoors and this unique connection has become a top tier differentiating factor for many communities. The Nature Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo is a growing habitat reserve of 6,700 acres of protected open space that allows residents to connect with the land through educational events, docent-led walks and hikes, various volunteer opportunities and more. Over time The Nature Reserve will grow to include over 20,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo lands.

Understand Your Community’s Overall Scale

To build a successful master-planned community, perhaps one of the most important considerations is to look at the bigger picture and the master concept. You must first understand at what scale you are building and apply it to all aspects of the community including amenities, recreation, education, etc. 

For example, as Rancho Mission Viejo continues to build future new home villages, it has to continually build more amenities to meet the needs of the growing homeowner population. 

Know Who Your Buyers Are

You must know who your buyers are and what they desire not only in a home but in overall lifestyle. Knowing who is going to come to your community helps predict what buyers are looking for inside and outside of the home. 

As we monitor demographics and we observe trends, we are prepared to be one step ahead. In Southern California, we saw a great need for more attainable housing to meet the growing number of millennials looking to purchase a home. 

Do your buyers work from home, are they starting families or looking to grow their families, are they part of the 55-plus demographic? Asking these questions sets you on a path to determining what will resonate with buyers.  

We have even started monitoring Generation Z to better understand how they will perform as a future homeowner. You can never have too much insight or be too informed. Data is one of the keys to building and planning a successful community. 

Housing for All Ages

A variety of home products attracts the greatest number of potential buyers. That’s no secret. You must offer living options at various price points that meet the needs of people of all ages and stages of life. 

While residents who are 55-plus have many different needs than a single first-time homebuyer, it is important to anticipate and cater to both. 

A successful master-planned community creates a sense of belonging and place. It is also carefully planned and designed to provide innovative housing options to meet present needs and resilience for the future.

Kris Maher is the Senior Vice President of Community Development at Rancho Mission Viejo.