10 trends driving master-planned Texas communities

How are large-scale community designs reshaping our future? It’s a question Heth Kendrick, a leader in the Dallas office of LandDesign, set out to tackle. The community designer and landscape architect recently identified 10 trends driving and transforming master-planned communities around Texas. Here’s a look at where they stand:

1. “Social infrastructure”
Multifamily developments are incorporating innovative design ideas like beer gardens and other community gathering spaces — the social fabric demanded by today’s demographic of buyers. “Developers need differentiators between target buyers in the 35-and-younger crowd versus the 55-and-better population. Each desires similar gathering opportunities, but with very different social settings,” says Kendrick.

2. Dog parks as social hubs
“Just 10 years ago, dog parks were the cutting-edge amenity,” Kendrick recalls. “But now if your community doesn’t have a dog park integrated with the social fabric, you just won’t attract residents.” The American Pet Products Association estimates that 68% of all U.S. households own a pet and 60% of U.S. households own a dog. LandDesign is creating elaborate, amenitized pet playgrounds including outdoor lounge areas for “Bark and Brew” and “Yappy Hour” pet owner destinations.

3. Greener and leaner
“In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, developers are now asking design teams how to build a more efficiently and with less material while maintaining a high level of design,” says Kendrick. “As DFW continues to grow, savvy multifamily developers are planning for a sustainable future and inventive ways to accommodate that growth.”

4. Densification — and NIMBY pushback
In towns surrounding the metroplex, many residents are hesitant to embrace new multifamily development and the densification that comes with them. To address property pushback from municipalities outside of urban areas such as Dallas and Austin, LandDesign counsels clients to study how greater density affects transportation, stormwater, utilities and other practical impacts. “Even more important,” says Kendrick, “we’ll work to educate surrounding communities on the benefits growth can bring them.”

5. Varied mobility options.
When it comes to transportation, LandDesign is studying how communities will adapt with autonomous vehicles (AVs), electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, drop-off points for Uber and Lyft, electric scooters — and other “last mile” solutions — in the next several years. “Just like the dog park 10 years ago, if your community lacks Uber drop-off points now, you’re behind the curve,” says Kendrick.

6. More and better pools
“In Texas, we have far more design freedom than many other U.S. regions because our pool codes are more relaxed,” says Kendrick. “This allows for more innovation in the design of pools and consideration for how a pool can be used throughout the year. Texas is fortunate to have a nine-month pool season and we are designing spaces to allow for outdoor living throughout the year!”

7. Tech, tech, tech
Also changing the residential experience are new high-technology elements. Developers are ditching old fob/key systems and replacing them with smartphone apartment access. Real estate teams are beginning to use tablets into the tour process, so prospective residents can have a tour catered specifically toward their interest or even take self-guided tours at their own leisurely pace. Outdoors, LandDesign sees opportunities for residents to use smartphones to control fireplaces, water features, televisions and sound systems.

8. Nature takes over
Kendrick adds that LandDesign’s community designers incorporate unique and highly sustainable ideas “that help solve the world’s big problems, one neighborhood at a time,” he explains. “For example, we’re placing honey bees on the rooftops of one multifamily community, where the property managers harvest the honey and offer it as gifts to potential residents.” Along one DFW urban streetscape, LandDesign incorporates a raingarden to capture, treat and release stormwater, with educational signage for residents and visitors. “Everything starts with sustainability in mind,” he says. “From the native plant material that attracts pollinators to regionally sourced hardscape materials, the environment is a starting point in all design opportunities.”

9. Less parking, more homes
Conversations about transportation are changing radically, adds Kendrick. “We’re included in developer discussions about backfilling communities with future development as fewer parking garages and surface parking lots are needed,“ he says. “We are growing less dependent on personal vehicles, and we can increase density by retrofitting parking lots and parking garages to add more residential units or open space.”

10. Growing edge cities
Last, Kendrick see more “edge cities” like Plano, Frisco and Arlington becoming mature cities unto themselves. Those places are shifting from suburban places into new, surban communities blurring the line with true urban markets.

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