How to deliver an exceptional master planned community

Article By:

Senior Associate | Urban Designer

Once characterized as a fast-paced construction project that offered nothing more than cookie-cutter housing with tennis courts, golf courses and country clubs, a master planned community has evolved considerably in recent years.

Developers have become more attuned to the needs and aspirations of their target markets. They aim to deliver a holistic housing product that includes ample park space, recreational amenities, retail centres and mixed-use developments.

What is a master planned community?

A Master Planned Community is a large, planned residential neighbourhood. In contrast to many residential subdivisions, Master Planned Communities are often self-contained mini cities with several recreational and commercial amenities. The general development idea with an MPC is that a master developer will acquire a massive land parcel, which can vary between 2,000 to 10,000 acres (or greater) located in an urban or suburban environment. The development may become one significant residential area or broken down and phased into multiple neighbourhoods. Usually, the developer will gradually sell it to residential builders or commercial developers to build out the community over time.

Sometimes, the master developer will allow separate builders to create small-scale master plans so that each one is uniquely different in terms of design and offerings to its residents. This may include housing types, architectural styles, home sizes, lot sizes and prices. Some also have specific branding and target markets, such as adults over 55 (55+), millennials, young couples and young families with small children.

The value in a master planned community

A Master Planned Community essentially adds stability to the resale value of your property. When the economy is thriving, your home may increase in value at a faster, more stable rate than homes outside of a Master Planned Community. Conversely, when the economy is in a rough patch, the neighbourhood will help maintain and protect your property value.

The developers of the master-planned community are not just there to build one building and move on. They will be around for at least 15 to 20 years to ensure that their projects remain well designed and well managed to create a return on investment for their stakeholders throughout the construction phases. With the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, ageing population and economic roller-coaster ride, many suburban developers are starting to realize that unless they embrace resilience, adaptability and innovation, delivering that vision may become a challenge!

A master planned community encourages a sense of place

The key to a successful and popular master planned community is delivering a strong sense of belonging and neighbourhood design to homeowners. According to the Urban Land Institute, “A Master Planned Community differentiates itself from a suburban subdivision in one core aspect: it focuses on fostering a sense of community, both in terms of housing options—including modest to large properties to meet various price points—and lifestyle amenities. These communities may offer the neighbourhood secured access to recreational amenities, such as playgrounds, parks, or restaurants; educational opportunities, including elementary, middle, or high schools and daycare facilities; and neighbourhood shopping and services, such as stores, large shopping centres, and businesses or employment centres to complement the residential neighbourhoods.”

In this document, I have included several key features of desirable master-planned communities. Download the full document from the pop up window in the right-hand corner of the page.

Misconceptions around a master planned community

There remains a misconception that living in a Master Planned Community is boring, “cookie-cutter”, restrictive or socially exclusive with a monotonous character. On the contrary, developers of Master Planned Communities focus on creating their brand identity for the neighbourhood and establishing a sense of cohesiveness, which they achieve through elements that support a consistent theme. Developing and building with branding in mind will attract residents who will elevate and enhance the community.

At Nadi Group, we help developers create unique and memorable neighbourhoods through visioning, design guidelines and the approval process. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that their Master Planned Community becomes a great place to live, including protecting property values congruent with the neighbourhood's success. The developer and home builder's collective goal should focus on familiarity and adherence to the community's vision and guidelines. Moreover, prioritizing consistent branding through signage, landscape and street furniture will only add to the community's character.

Download the full document to examples of the design goals of communities that support their brand identities (see pop up window).

Want to know more about delivering an exceptional master planned community?

A great Master Planned Community is well-attuned to the broader market and provides a greater sense of belonging. It is also carefully planned and managed to provide innovative housing options to meet present needs and urban resilience for the future. Download "Delivering the Vision III: Your Guide to an Exceptional Master Planned Community" from the pop up window at the top of the page to read and learn more about building communities that have longevity, growth and value.

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