Wilcox Development Group, LLC, saw an opportunity for success in Chicago’s underserved active-adult market.
By Evan Lancaster
goal to deliver housing options to the active-adult market in suburban Chicago, led Wilcox Development Group, LLC, to introduce The Villas at Fox Run, a 92-unit, active-adult community located in Plainfield, Ill. According to Jamie Wilcox, president of Wilcox Development Group, the city of Plainfield, Ill., was chosen because the developer wanted to demonstrate the success of a smaller product in an area less dominated by competition.
Although The Villas at Fox Run is not an agerestricted community, the developer aimed to gain popularity through the concept of age targeting. “The community is designed with grades that comply with ADA Accessibly requirements – which can be important to someone in the active-adult category, or someone who is disabled as well,” Wilcox explained. “But we do not have any age restriction at all in the community; we just set it up so it was attractive for people in that demographic.” The Villas at Fox Run features luxurious ranchstyle, maintenance-free homes with two-to threebedroom floor plans with two-to three-bathrooms, ranging from 1,700 to 2,800 square feet and prices starting at $199,000. Each layout is designed to capture the romance and tranquility of the city of Plainfield. “There were some other active-adult communities in the area that are much larger,” Wilcox said. He continued, “We do hear from our residents – very often – that they like the intimacy of our [smaller] community.”
Wilcox added that the active-adult niche was an underserved product in this sector of the Illinois market, and by not committing to an age-specific client base, the developer found freedom in the design for The Villas at Fox Run. When designing the community grounds, the developer paid close attention to outdoor amenities such as walking and biking paths. In fact, through market research, Wilcox found that outdoor amenities are a very critical aspect to homeowners when selecting a location to live. “Walking paths and access to walking areas is very important,” he said. “In fact, in many surveys, it is the most important amenity people ask for. We also connect to a regional bike and walking trial, the Plainfield regional bike and walking trial.” Wilcox explained that as a building partner of home builder, Epcon Communities, Wilcox Development Group, LLC, wanted to provide a great amenity package that included outdoor and indoor space – in order to offer more to residents while still keeping the aspect of community intact. Included within this amenity package is a 3,100-square-foot, fully-furnished clubhouse with recreational space and meeting areas, a full kitchen and a heated pool. According to Wilcox, the clubhouse at Fox Run has become the “social centerpiece” of the community.
Considering the aspect of community within The Villas at Fox Run, Wilcox was pleased to say that although there is a common misconception about today’s tech-savvy, active adult, social media played a prominent role in creating a buzz for The Villas at Fox Run. “I’m a very ardent believer in social media in our business. I think the common misconception is that older people aren’t as sophisticated or don’t use the Web as effectively – is not at all true,” he said. Wilcox continued, “We have a Facebook page that we’ve used for the last couple years, with a tremendous amount of interaction, both with our existing residents as well as with perspective residents through that outlet.”
Wilcox explained that this project faced challenges early on. For example, the project’s financing is still difficult, but with the help of private investors funding the land and a local bank financing vertical construction, The Villas at Fox Run has received recognition from local residents and is still experiencing success. According to Wilcox, the developer plans to complete the community in 2013. Recent market data has shown market improvement and has indicated that sales will remain strong into next year. Wilcox credits Plainfield’s accessibility to the I-55 corridor, for attracting residents from areas beyond their selected demographic. “Not only are we driving business from our immediate vicinity, but hopefully quite a bit of people coming to us down the I-55 corridor – not necessarily from Chicago, but from near Chicago,” he said. “Because of the travel infrastructure and the area, we’ve attracted people from further away than anticipated.”
When asked what sets The Villas at Fox Run apart from other age-targeted communities in the area, Wilcox said that by not restricting age limits, along with the ability to add a personal touch to the project as a small, family-owned business, has enabled Wilcox Development Group, LLC, to attract residents into their relaxing and inviting community atmosphere.
Evan Lancaster is assistant editor of Builder and Developer. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.