The #CommunityCool Factor

There is always a quest for wellness and health, and finding a community that contributes to well-being is key

By Julia Malisos

Finding a new home has become more than getting the best deal, it’s also about finding a place where you can “live your best life.” With the on-going quest for health, wellness, and happiness, finding a living environment that contributes to well-being (mental and physical) is part of the house-hunt objective.

Master Planned Communities (MPCs) are the perfect way to provide this market preference because of their ability to amenitize, and MPCs are not shy about doing so. At one time, the key master planned community amenities were pedestrian pathways, tennis courts, new schools, and recreation buildings. Today, resort style amenities as well as ones that are flexible and welcoming, are the new norm and have been brought to a new level, one that justifies the hashtag… #CommunityCool.

From phenomenal splash pads and fitness clubs, bars and food demonstrations to philanthropic programs, MPCs are doing it all. These amenities create excitement for future residents when signing their closing papers, and also gives them a feeling that they will be living in a community that will high- five them every day thereafter. Buyers want neighborhoods that bring fulfillment not just because they are living in a new home, but because they want to socially invest in an area that will present lifelong friendships, activities, and lifestyle.

“The Hangout” in Rancho Mission Viejo’s Esencia Village boasts an amazing Chandelier Tree that light the nights for wine and conversation; not to mention, it’s called The Hangout… branding genius. Rancho Mission Viejo’s cool factor also includes campfires and nature hikes as well as a community campground where residents can sleep under the stars.

Brookfield’s Easton Park in Austin, Texas has a colorfully painted retired Trolley that was decorated by children in the community and Creative Action, a local non-profit organization. It now serves as a play structure for the residents, sparking creativity and community pride, a model outcome of community partnership. Re-purposing the trolley is also an example of sustainability and initiating learning moments, as this Easton neighborhood is inspired by San Francisco.

From musical instruments to zip lines, Five Point’s The Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine have successfully installed amenities that people in other Cities want to see! And, they top the #CommunityCool factor by giving an orange bike for every home purchase. What a way to sell a lifestyle, while encouraging carbon footprint reduction!

Amenities are very much experiential and focus on social activities such as food trucks and corn hole tournaments. Its not so much the actual equipment that makes all amenities special, but the memorable and welcoming activities that make it easy and fun to get out for some face-to-face interaction. A good photo opportunity doesn’t hurt either.

The community of Headwaters in Dripping Spring, Texas has more than eight miles of trails, water playscapes, and HWFit, which is a state-of-the-art fitness center that provides organized group classes and professionally run workouts. At its center, The Hub is their coffee shop that is equipped with Wi-Fi and spaces to socialize, just another example of experiential amenities. Sure, it sounds similar to name brand coffee shops, but the convenience and locality of having it as part of the neighborhood encourages a different level of appreciation and desire for use.

Taking it a step beyond the lazy river, lagoon pool and waterslides, Shearwater in Florida markets “Community Heart” which inspires activity and interaction. At Shearwater, residents can work with the “Lifestyle Director,” connecting them with other residents who share similar interests. When you trademark “Vital Communities” with the intent of enhancing the resident experience, community interaction is visibly a top MPC amenity. It’s no wonder that John Burns Real Estate Consulting found that the 2019 top 50 master planned communities sold 31,000 new homes which was a 10% increase from the year before. These place-making amenities help residents embrace and feel connected to each other.

At the end of the day, no matter what the actual amenities are, the common factor is that they are all bringing people together. Providing interactive spaces encourages socialization and activity, creating bonds amongst neighbors, because it really comes down to how people feel when they come home every day. Whether it is #CommunityCool, #Community- Happy, #CommunityGiving or simply #Community, it is about living your best life with the ones that make you smile.

Julia Malisos, LEED AP is a Principal- Planning/ Community Design at WHA Architecture, Planning and Design with offices in Santa Ana, Long Beach, and San Ramon. Julia can be reached at