The evolution of master-planned communities has been advancing since the 1980’s with a shift in emphasis from private homes and yards to the public domain. According to Eric Osth, managing principal at Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates, towns like Seaside and Celebration, Florida established the value of new communities and urbanism. Celebration took those values to the masses which helped builders understand how to actually build a town. These communities are designed with walking and bike paths, and convenient access to work, shopping, entertainment, and transit links. People are looking for less stressful solutions and maximizing their day. Bike to work…. Less commuting… Save gas/mileage… equals great exercise.

The most successful communities not only offer a great house but also a great place to live. It’s not just about the amenities, it’s also about the experiences. Builders involved in creating programs that foster connections amongst neighbors are a perfect way to start traditions in neighborhoods. Willowsford, a Northern Virginia planned community is centered on a functioning organic farm. There is a connection with nature, healthy eating and sustainability — plus it gets people to interact with one another.

Osth’s firm has developed the “5-minute rule” — shopping, schools and recreation within walking or biking distance while opening two-way links to the outside region. “Direct connections to work and comfortable connections for pedestrians are what make cities work,” says Osth. Walking paths, trails and flex spaces are the number one thing that people want. This type of “trail networking” provides both recreation and car-free links to shopping, school and work. Also, community gardens and bird watching have become quite popular.

The main focus of these master-planned communities is “connectivity” and to attract buyers of a wide range of backgrounds. And with an employment-based master plan, they attract millennial buyers who typically are priced out of the market.