The Changing Marketplace of Master-Planned Communities

Sep 5, 2018

In the most recent edition of The Meyers Edge Ali Wolf, Director of Economic Research told us that affordability is driving the deceleration of the housing market. The first of four things Wolf noted to consider in responding to the changing market was:

“Be strategic. There hasn’t been an overnight change in demand where people no longer want to buy homes, but as prices rise and incomes are stretched, buyers are becoming increasingly picky. This will force the industry to focus more on community and product strategy.”

At Thursday’s Colorado Real Estate Journal’s Residential and Commercial Land Development Conference, “place-making” and “creating a sense of place” were some top buzz words from several developers on the panel.

Our Principal Craig Karn has been talking this talk (and walking the walk for that matter) for over three decades.  I asked Craig to flesh out some thoughts on the topic for me, and here is our conversation:

At which point in your career did you begin to feel the importance of creating a community, not just doing a project?

Very early in my career I started seeing the disconnect between planning and landscape architecture. In early 80’s planning, the “bubble plan” ruled. A few nicely colored land use bubbles and a summary chart and the “project” was on its way. Streets got engineered and the landscape architect came in at the end, often months or years later, and filled in the leftover space with plants. I like to call it “putting makeup on the pig”.

We always begin the community design process with the end in mind. The spaces we plan for early in the community design process become the places where we want to live at the end of that process.

What are some of the components that planners should take into consideration for community-building?

Respect all the stakeholders. The success of the community will depend on it.

Don’t fall into the trap of designing a community around some latest trend in design. People want authenticity. They want to live in a home, a neighborhood and a community that they feel is unique, not just a little newer or a little better than the one down the street.

Establish the image of community that you want to achieve early on and use it as a guidepost for design and decision-making through the entire community development process. 

Can you expand a bit more about the process of community building?

I like to explain it like this – sustainable and successful community design is a three-legged stool;

Leg 1 – the physical environment – The “green” stuff everyone likes to talk about.

Leg 2 – economics – If the community design is not economically sustainable it will fail. Build to the community’s needs and means so the site achieves and maintains economic viability.

Leg 3 – culture – A sustainable community will reflect the history of the site and the greater community while supporting the diverse lifestyles and lifecycles of the residents.

Do you have a favorite community that you have planned?

Sun Kingdom in Chongqing, P R China. The design opportunity was great, but the opportunity to learn and teach was a highlight of my career.

At Consilium Design our focus is on community every day. We design compelling, successful, beautiful communities and neighborhoods throughout Colorado and the U.S.  Please visit our portfolio page: and see our latest award-winning work on creating communities. In particular, note Leyden Rock, Boulevard One and Stanley Marketplace.

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