By Kevin Rabil, Executive Vice President While the 20th century saw the birth of the suburb, the 21st century is all about planned communities. And it’s easy to see why. Master Planned Communities (or MPCs, for short) are part of a growing national trend toward pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with nature-based amenities such as parks, golf courses, walking and hiking trails, water features and bike paths. In fact, I just read that one in five Americans lives in a master planned community today or is thinking of buying into one (hello, job security!). I have definitely drunk the Kool-Aid of MPCs. I live in one. I work for one. In fact, I work for many! As a member of the Van Metre Homes team, I work on behalf of dozens of planned communities all over the DC Metropolitan area. Each Van Metre community has a different personality and location, but the way each are planned and executed generally follows the same tried and true approach.
What is a Master Planned Community?
MPCs are usually large communities, sometimes built in phases by one or more builders, which encompass elements of living, working and playing. Van Metre communities include condos, townhomes, single family homes, mini-mansions, actual mansions, office buildings, shopping centers and parks. So, what distinguishes a master planned community from other large communities? The short answer is intention. Unlike traditional neighborhoods that sprung up and grew in random, makeshift ways, master planned communities are totally thought through. Every aspect. Every detail. Every future possibility. Roads and amenities have been designed by civil engineers and thoughtful planners so there’s good traffic flow, and high-volume destinations are conveniently located.
Here are some of the reasons I love MPCs:
- Natural beauty: most MPCs are surrounded by immaculately groomed grounds, plenty of indoor/outdoor spaces, and public art that I don’t have to lift a finger to enjoy.
- Amenities: Access to brand new amenities that I love and really use are key to my social life (pool, clubhouse, 24-hour fitness center). There’s so much to do without ever leaving the neighborhood: bike paths, hiking trails, dog parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, barbecues, pavilions, and more!
- Social, active neighbors: There is lots of social programming (music festivals, food truck rodeos, 5K runs) and again, I don’t have to lift a finger (does it seem like I hate moving my fingers?). Because the community is new, most people are really open to meeting new neighbors and welcoming new families. I really appreciate that warm, openhearted spirit and energy. People really LIVE in this community, it’s not isolated or isolating.
- Different generations of social, active neighbors: In my neighborhood, there are young couples, retired couples, and families of all sizes. That’s as it should be, I think. It makes for a more vibrant neighborhood.
- Architectural variety: this is key in keeping MPCs from feeling too cookie cutter. Many MPCs bring in several builders, each of whom offer several, sometimes dozens, of different models.
- Guaranteed appreciation of my home value: The community and the homeowners’ association protect my neighborhood’s common areas and visual aesthetics, making sure it stays desirable as the community grows. I don’t have to worry about curb appeal.
- Customization options: Often the most attractive feature about an MPC is that you can work with a modern home builder like Van Metre to develop the perfect design, features, and floorplan for your new home. Our Design Centre is full of options for customization.
- Room to grow: Did you know the average American will move 11.4 times in their lives? What’s nice about living in an MPC like Stone Ridge is that as my life changes, I don’t have to move far away from everything and everyone I love to find a new home. Van Metre, for example, offers home designs for every stage of life. Whether I’m seeking a larger home for my growing family or am ready to downsize, most MPCs have different neighborhoods, home styles and price points. So I have the flexibility to choose the right home for me – without ever having to leave my community and neighbors.
How to choose the right master planned community
Unsurprisingly, there are as many kinds of MPCs as there are people. Van Metre’s smallest is Meadowbrook Farm, while our largest MPC (Broadlands) has tens of thousands of acres and contains individual neighborhoods of single-family and multi-family homes as well as schools, shopping, medical facilities, and business. If quiet and solitude are what you’re looking for, then our planned neighborhoods in Marshall, Virginia (Fauquier County) will be perfect for you and yours. If you’re more of an urbanite, we also have homes smack in the center of the action at The Crest of Alexandria. Of course, the funny thing is that these modern, innovative communities actually harken back to simpler times when values like community involvement, walking everywhere and knowing your neighbors were deemed essential. But the original idea has been improved upon in MPCs with responsible, green building practices, sustainable planning and smart growth. Van Metre homes are both low-energy and high-tech to lessen their carbon footprint.
Are MPCs here to stay?
The original suburb concept created urban sprawl, which spread people further and further apart—further away from their jobs and into communities that weren’t necessarily designed to meet their needs. Conversely, planned communities focus more on walkability, access and environmental impact. “We are moving from location, location, location in terms of the most important factor to access, access, access,” says Shyam Kannan, formerly a principal at real estate consultancy Robert Charles Lesser and now managing director of planning at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Start clicking around the many types of MPCs built by Van Metre Homes. You may soon be like me—swearing your allegiance not just to your lovely new home, but to your wonderful new community.