Across the Lowcountry, homebuyers are finding fresh options associated with master planned communities. Traditionally, these developments include pools, walking and biking trails, and playgrounds. Today’s buyers want more. They want communities which enhance their lives.
Developers are responding with communities which have a sense of place. Today’s buyers nix living in anonymous suburban tracts of almost identical, bland homes. According to Patrick Sisson on Curbed, homebuyers want a “mixed-use, town square-style community that’s a few miles from downtown.”
Driving development trends are the 34% of the market share who are millennials. These homebuyers love the lifestyle frequently found in an urban area: coffee shops, restaurants, gathering spaces, communal recreation and walkability.
Community development designed to attract buyers with this mindset has been going on for decades in larger markets. These trends have arrived in the Lowcountry, influenced by established communities across the southeast.
New urban developments in the southeast
Reston, VA, is an example of a mature, master planned community with a very large mixed-use hub which led the way with a new concept of development. Wikipedia sums the history of Reston:
“An internationally known planned community founded in 1964, it was built with the goal of revolutionizing post–World War II concepts of land use and residential/corporate development in suburban America. The Reston Town Center is home to many businesses, with high-rise and low-rise commercial buildings that are home to shops, restaurants, offices, a cinema, and a hotel.
North Raleigh is home to North Hills and many other new urban / suburban semi-towns. This booming section has been enlivened over the last decade. Desirability has sustained higher prices for homes and cluster development near these new sub/urban centers.
In the Lowcountry, communities such as Mount Pleasant’s I’on have exemplified the concept of mixed-use developments near urban areas.
Developers are studying and addressing the desire of homeowners to live in places where others who share similar lifestyles and values live. This is an example of the “birds of a feather” concept in development.
What are the development trends driving today’s communities?
Development trends reported across the United States, include
- Links to employment (inside the community or via rail from the community)
- Healthy activities centered around fitness, wellness, and accessing nature
- Opportunities to make friends with fellow residents at food trucks, cultural events, or even cruises
Charleston area developers and home builders are on trend with each of these trends.
Links to employment - living near jobs, mass transit
Fewer people care to commute long distances to work. Community developers recognize people’s preferences and respond with live / work communities where employment opportunities abound, and where offices and other commercial space are components of the neighborhood.
Summerville’s Nexton is an example of a master planned community which has been purposefully designed to provide live / work opportunities. Over the coming decade, the community will be built out and could contain up to 13,000 residential units.
According to news reports approximately 400 acres in a parcel sold early in 2017 has been aside for commercial development - which will draw employees from within the community, as well as shoppers.. This is not the first part of Nexton to be a commercial hub. [Watch a brief video about Nexton’s variety of commercial spaces.]
Commercial development began with Nexton Square which is home to “a growing list of businesses.” Businesses now housed in space within the community include: SCRA Applied Technologies, Volvo, Aeterna Zentaris, Palmetto Primary Care Physicians. With the development’s trails for easy walking and biking, people working with these enterprises can certainly walk, bike or jog to work.
In the near term, retail development is expected within the Nexton’s Brighton Park Village where “Harris Teeter will be the centerpiece of the retail area.”
Berkeley County’s Carnes Crossroads plans include retail and in the near term, a Roper Hospital facility to be built there. This will make Carnes Crossroads attractive as a residential community for Roper’s employees.
Over in Mount Pleasant, Dunes West and Carolina Park are both large master planned communities clustered near thriving retail and office space in Park West Community’s commercial areas.
Residents of area developments have commuting options
CARTA’s Express Park and Ride shuttle service offers connections in Mount Pleasant and Summerville. Residents in each of these master planned developments can drive a few short miles, and opt to take the bus to their office in Downtown Charleston, MUSC or the College of Charleston.
With the increasing awareness of the need to live a healthier life, people are interested in a full array of activities to promote wellness. Communities such as Kolter’s Cresswind Charleston, an active adult community for those 55 and better, are designed around their core concepts of fitness, nutrition and relationships. To that end, the Club as Cresswind features an expansive fitness center, yoga room and demonstration kitchen — where guest chefs tutor residents in healthy cooking. A lifestyle director plans, organizes and manages a full array of activities to provide opportunity to improve one’s life.
Summers Corner in Summerville has also designed their all ages community around a fully active life. Their amenities include a kayak and paddleboard launch where residents can meet up to enjoy time together.
In the past developers might create a small fitness center in a community. These small rooms were equipped with a limited number of machines, and might have a single an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a few stationary bikes and a weight machine. Because of buyers’ preferences, developers are now setting aside land for the construction of large wellness and fitness centers in partnership with nonprofits like YMCAs.
In Summerville, at The Ponds, the YMCA of Summerville operates a branch of the Y in a facility where neighbors can enjoy a diverse schedule of classes. This location which opened in early 2009, includes a state-of-the-art Wellness Center and gymnasium providing activities, sports and fitness for all ages.
The Summerville Y has recently broken ground at Cane Bay for a 54,000-square-foot facility. The new Y will occupy 68-acres donated by Cane Bay’s developer. The Cane Bay Y will include a “wellness center, gym, indoor jogging track, pickleball courts, meeting spaces and a 25-yard indoor pool. The building will be surrounded by multipurpose fields, courts and trails.” It is expected to be completed in 2018.
Opportunities to make friends
Leisure time is time for socializing. Millennials don’t want to live with anonymous neighbors. They want to live in lively communities where social events are a major element of the lifestyle. Again, Charleston area communities are already on trend, fulfilling buyers’ desires.
Carnes Crossroads “offers something for everyone, from social events with friends and neighbors.” The community is centered around their Green Barn where a weekly, seasonal Farmers’ Market allows residents to source farm-grown produce, locally crafted cheeses, organic meats and eggs. Regular social activities take place at the barn as well.
Over at The Ponds, social activities are clustered near the historic Schulz Farmhouse which is surrounded by ancient, moss-draped live oaks. Each year, The Southern Flame Festival, an annual BBQ competition, features BBQ pit masters vying for honors accompanied by lively tunes from bands entertaining attendees. Every year attendees from across the south are enticed by the aroma of smoke wafting through the oaks as they boogie to the tunes from southern rock bands.
At Summers Corner, residents can gather at the Corner House, which shelters a cafe and coffee shop and gathering area. Residents working from home who want to meet clients or neighbors wanting a quick pickup lunch or dinner are all easily accommodated with Wi-Fi and tasty options.
Find your community
For most buyers, home is more than the house they live in. It’s community: front and center. With increasing numbers of new master planned communities arising to fill the demand for home within a community with a sense of place, buyers have a multitude of choices. Explore your options and find the perfect neighborhood for your new life.
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