Where can you find parks, schools, neighborhood retail centers, museums, libraries, cultural centers, recreational facilities and state-of-the-art medical facilities all located right in your own neighborhood? Where can you go to find a neighborhood that actually is a neighborhood, where neighbors recognize each other on walking trails and in parks?
The answer could be– in your own city, in Northern or Southern Nevada, in a complete neighborhood – a master planned community.
A master planned community is, essentially, a series of neighborhoods within a community. Typically they consist of multiple villages or subdivisions built by multiple builders, and offer a range of models and prices.
“Every builder builds their own thing,” said Tom Warden, vice president of community relations for Howard Hughes Corporation. “In the separate neighborhoods they have a number of models, anywhere from two to four models. A single company building a huge master planned community may not have as many options open to them as they would if they used different builders. A variety of builders brings a variety of product.”
Within the overall community there are parks, recreational and cultural areas, schools and retail centers, and, in most master planned communities, open space.
Not what most people expect to find in suburban housing developments, open space, but master planned communities, which are generally built on huge plots of land, some spread across tens of thousands of acres, can offer parks, golf courses and natural areas.
“It’s difficult to expect small communities to be able to provide for the lifestyle components the larger community can,” stated Frank Pankratz, senior vice president with Del Webb. Del Webb is building Anthem, a master plan consisting of three communities, Country Club, Coventry Homes and the active adult community of Sun City. “Typically [in larger communities] you see more open space, more vegetation; typically you see some art in public places, whether actual art or water features. There are parks and libraries and so forth that you wouldn’t see in a traditional subdivision.”
But the communities benefit more than just buyers.
Municipalities and the Local Economy, or, Something for Everyone
One benefit of master planned communities is the impact on the local economy. Obviously construction of new neighborhoods, from retail centers to residential areas, brings in money. Local builders buy from local suppliers and once the community is built, buyers come from in state and out, bringing their cash flow with them.
Located in Galena on over 700 acres between Reno and Lake Tahoe, Montreux is an upscale community featuring French, English and European architecture. Cottages range from 1700 to 3500 square feet and Manors from 2600 to 5300; prices range from $800,000 to 2.2 million.
Building started at Montreux in 1989 and in 2000 more acreage was added and three new golf holes went in. “We had no idea it would go as high as it has and would attract the kind of people we’re attracting,” said Rob Nichols, one of two partners in Montreux Joint Venture. “We need to refocus and regroup as far as the overall plan. We just sold a lot the other day that had appreciated 279% in the last few years, and we never anticipated that kind of thing.”
“By building a home here, buyers are supporting the entire construction industry,” said Louise Simpson, marketing director for Montreux. “They’re paying Nevada taxes. It’s a chain reaction. When money comes in, everybody gets the benefit of it. The schools and the libraries and so on. The road systems. It’s great for the community.”
“In terms of economic impact, one thing leads to another,” said Dan Naef, vice president of community development for American Nevada Corporation. “The development of the community infrastructure such as grading, utilities, streets, parks, etc., is typically performed by local contractors.” American Nevada is completing the 1310-acre final phase of the 8600-acre Green Valley master planned community in Henderson, as well as working with Silver Canyon Partnership, the developer of the 1300-acre Seven Hills community, also in Henderson.
Building new homes supports the need to develop commercial properties, including new retail and professional businesses. Green Valley Ranch offers a grocery-anchored retail center and 310 acres available for new businesses. Seven Hills has two small parcels available for retail and professional businesses and a number of new businesses have opened nearby.
Office and industrial centers in these communities attract new businesses. Area infrastructure is improved, interchanges are created, land for schools is donated by builders. In Reno Damonte Ranch added another interchange to US 395; in Southern Nevada, Howard Hughes Corporation has invested more than $350 million to finance the construction of infrastructure including Summerlin Parkway, a tri-level freeway interchange. A 21-acre hotel site was added within the $4 billion 2245-acre Lake Las Vegas Resort community in Henderson.
“One thing the master planned community doesn’t do is impose rework costs in a sense other areas of the community do on government,” said Tom Warden. “For instance, build a street and houses and then oops, got to widen the street or the sewer or extend the water line. That doesn’t happen in a master plan. That’s an expense borne by the municipalities generally but in a master planned community all of the infrastructure is built to function and provide for the completely built-out community when it’s all done, so you don’t have the rework cost of going back in and cutting and rebuilding and enlarging.”
The sheer size of many master planned communities allows them the room to offer facilities to the community, facilities for medical centers, for recreation, and for the arts. Large facilities. The 38,500-square-foot Library and Performing Arts center located in the Hills South Village in Summerlin houses more than 100,000 volumes. The Performing Arts Center seats 291. The Donald W. Reynolds Cultural Center is located in The Hills South village also, on land donated by the Howard Hughes Corporation. The 36,000-square-foot center is home to the Nevada Ballet Theatre. Del Webb’s Anthem includes a 75,000-square-foot recreational facility.
In Reno’s North Valleys, Sky Vista is creating a regional sports complex which will include facilities for just about every sport imaginable. There are numerous parks between individual developments, and a proposed retail site at the entrance.
Benefits for Buyers – Amenities, or, why a master planned community?
“People tell us what they like first and foremost, why they bought here, was for the master planned community,” said Warden. “In other words, it may cost a few more bucks for the home in Summerlin, but people clearly understand what they’re getting. They’re buying into more than just a home; they’re buying into a community. They like the open space, they like the master planned nature. The social infrastructure is included, even the cultural infrastructure.”
Open space is often structured around the buyer’s anticipated needs. “An age-restricted active adult community would certainly benefit from a clubhouse and golf course,” said Naef, “while a family-oriented community might emphasize schools and parks. Access to retail and professional centers and places of worship are equally important.”
Since they span so much acreage, master planned communities are creating suburbs, not infilling within the metro areas, which makes proximity to services all the more important.
“People are looking for that all-encompassing location, and good location means it’s easy to get to and from,” said Perry DiLoreto, managing member of Nevada TriPartners, which is building Damonte Ranch in Reno, a 2000 acre community with industrial and office centers. “We have a new freeway interchange right off US 395, which makes it very convenient and very accessible.” In addition, there will be significant employment opportunities in the community itself.
When it comes down to it, what master planned communities offer home owners is amenities. All of them. In one location. Neighborhood retail centers. Office centers, industrial centers– all the components of the live/work/play concept of master planned communities.
Schools, parks, golf courses. “I think that’s the correct order,” said DiLoreto. “Schools, parks, golf courses. Golf courses. We don’t have one, because we feel there are enough in the area. They certainly continue to be a wonderful amenity, but they’re expensive and depending on whether they’re public or private, they can also be a bit intrusive.”
Maybe so, but a majority of master planned communities feature golf courses in their design. The 22,500-acre Summerlin community is working on two of the proposed 30 villages, the Vistas and the Ridges. The latter is a largely custom village built around Bear’s Best Las Vegas, a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course in which 18 of the most famous holes from arid climate courses have been reproduced faithfully, down to the size and shape of the traps and the greens.
ArrowCreek features the Challenge, a Scottish-style links course designed by Fuzzy Zoeller and John Harbottle, and the Legend, Arnold Palmer’s 18 hole championship course.
Montreux is home to the PGA’s Reno-Tahoe Open on its Jack Nicklaus course.
Building on the Past
People not only want to live/work/play in their own neighborhood, they also want to do it somewhere beautiful. And maybe somewhere that has a history.
ArrowCreek, located at the edge of Reno and the treeline of the Toiyabe National Forest, ranges from 5200 feet to 5900 in elevation and spans 3200 acres, with 1500 acres left natural and undisturbed. Once home to the Washoe Indians, an archaeological survey of ArrowCreek turned up 105 sites of interest, including petroglyphs and numerous arrowheads, clusters of hearths and a smoking pipe. The areas were then preserved in the 1500 acres of natural, open space and one rock carving– a saurian– was copied, the model donated to the State Museum in Carson City and the original given to the Washoe tribe.
Another hillside community, MacDonald Ranch is the first Southern Nevada community to offer hillside home sites which range from one-third acre to two acres, and prices which range from $135,000 to better than a million. The community will eventually house four villages and span 3200 acres. MacDonald Center for the Arts and Humanities will feature the MacDonald Center for Ancient History, a museum with exhibits, libraries, restaurants and stores, dedicated to archeology.
Damonte Ranch was formed from several smaller ranches that came together in the early 20th century, and even those ranches were consolidations of even smaller ranches. The Peleg Brown Ranch, created in the 1860s through a series of consolidations, was sold to the Damonte family in 1940. Before his death, Peleg Brown donated an acre of land for a school to be built just south of his ranch. Brown School was a one room facility which stood from 1878 to 1911, and was rebuilt twice. The third structure serves as administrative space for the Washoe County School District.
So who’s buying homes and land in Nevada’s master planned communities today? The answer is as diverse as the communities themselves. According to Tom Warden, “The simplest way to put it is these communities are diverse both economically in terms of what’s offered and in terms of the people buying in. Probably the largest segment of the buying community is mature families which would be married couples from age 35-54. But we see a real spread in terms of buyer composition all the way from young singles to retirees.”
From traditional neighborhoods to state-of-the-art facilities, from young singles to retired couples, from apartments to manors and industrial centers to offices, master planned communities offer buyers the chance to live/work/play– without ever leaving home.