Master-Planned Communities Stand Out with Unique Amenities

Landscape with two men on logs in a river. In the background is a view of the mountains and trees.

To stand out from the competition, many master-planned communities are offering residents unique amenities, such as stand-up paddle boarding. (Photo courtesy of Tony Demin and Moonlight Basin)

While communities with golf courses and aquatics centers might be a common sight these days, some builders and developers are seeking new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.

This trend of offering unique amenities is highlighted in a recent 
report from U.S. housing industry research and consulting firm John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which lists some eye-catching amenities — like ziplines and treehouses — you definitely don’t see every day.

“Developers are seeing a change in attitude in what’s cool,” says Devyn Bachman, a research analyst with John Burns. “There’s more research, they’re finding out what people really want, seeking out expert opinions and they’re chasing the difference to keep up with the times.”

And with amenities like these, these builders and developers are certainly differentiating themselves:

The Orange Monster at Eastmark in Mesa, Ariz.

To gain buzz in this community, the developers at 
Eastmark looked to a younger crowd. No, not the Millennials  an even younger generation.

To increase community involvement and exercise, this community allowed children to design their own dream playscape, now dubbed the Orange Monster. Additionally, over the past three years, every home in this community has received a cruiser bike, further promoting a healthy, active and social lifestyle.

Check out some of these homes online today at via builders like 
Shea Homes, Mattamy Homes, CalAtlantic Homes and Woodside Homes.

The Tree House at Cane Island in Katy, Texas

At Cane Island, developers have gained buzz in a different, more literal way: a specially designed coffee shop.

This unique, two-story café has the appearance of a treehouse and is a great place for locals to connect with their neighbors for morning coffee or to catch a coffeehouse-style concert. 

Even more, Cane Island is also home to Hub, a four-legged community ambassador. This golden retriever loves welcoming residents to the Houston community and never turns down a pat on the back.

Discover Cane Island for yourself through builders like 
David Weekley Homes, Toll Brothers, Coventry Homes and more.

The Incline at The Meadows in Castle Rock, Colo.

Colorado is known for its beautiful nature and outdoor enthusiasts, so it’s no surprise that this master-planned community encourages its residents to get outdoors. 

Featuring builders like 
Century Communities, Oakwood Homes and Richmond American Homes, the star of The Meadows community is “The Incline,” a 200-step outdoor natural staircase that draws residents outside for some good mountain air and exercise.

“Everyone in south Denver wants to climb The Incline, so having that creates buzz — it’s free marketing,” says Bachman. “Social media is a big tool these days. New and exciting community elements are a draw on social media and can potentially bring in new shoppers who are looking for something different.”

How Do Developers and Builders Decide What to Offer?

So how exactly does a builder or developer choose which amenities will appeal to their residents? Research plays a big role, but geography is also key.

“A lot of that depends on the climate, location and topography of the master-planned community,” says Bachman. “Many developers are using nature to enhance their communities without having to get too fancy.”

A great example of this can be found in the Moonlight Basin community in Big Sky, Mont., home of the popular skiing destination Big Sky Resort. In addition to providing access to the resort’s ski runs, this community features a plethora of other unique amenities, including a treehouse village, sledding hill, guided fat biking trails, Berg pedal cart racing, stand-up paddle boarding on Ulery’s Lake, wilderness survival courses and plenty of other outdoor adventures with Moonlight Outfitters, the community's local purveyors of outdoor recreation.

“We’re really focused on providing residents enjoyable experiences any day of the year,” says Kevin Germain, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company, which overseas real estate activities at Moonlight Basin.

With sledding or skiing in the winter and outdoor adventures and summer camp programs in the summer, there is definitely something at Moonlight Basin for the whole family year round.

“Today’s buyer wants resort-like amenities and services available at their home and in their neighborhood,” says Germain. “It’s hard to have just skiing or golf anymore — not everyone in your family wants to do the same thing at the same time.”

Sounds fun, right? But not everyone lives in the mountains, so how can you find resort-like amenities in a community near you? 

“Do your homework,” suggests Bachman. “Pretty much every detail about a community can be found online and most master-planned communities have amazing visitors centers that can guide a buyer through the ins and outs of what life would be like at that community.”

Also, do some soul searching and decide which kind of 
amenities would offer the type of activities you and your family enjoy most.

“Our advice is for homeowners to think about what it means for them to truly live, to go out there and find a place that offers whatever that is,” adds Germain.

Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). You can find him online at LinkedIn.

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