Over the past few years, we have all seen a significant decrease in the number of large scale master-planned communities—those that lay out hundreds of acres of land for development over a long term. On the flip side, there has been a marked increase in small scale developments and infill projects, including affordable housing, active adult and assisted living communities, and fractional ownership dwellings.
Generally, those of us working in housing and community design are faced with a number of new and challenges that may be foreign to many. These challenges include the need to accommodate our aging population, and to provide reasonably priced housing units. For example, in California, each city is required to provide a minimum number of “affordable” units for sale and/or rental based on the average income and population of the community.
Two elements often work at odds with each other in designing these new projects: density and amenities. How do developers provide the proper amount and type of useful amenities to the community without sacrificing density? As a landscape architect, I always think of the amenities before housing. This differs from others who may advance density to the detriment of amenities.
With these considerations in mind, I asked three experts that I have worked with in affordable housing, active adult, and infill projects to provide their opinions of how the current change in economy and correspondingly, in design and planning, will affect their design efforts for the next five years. Five years may seem like a long period, with many of us trying to imagine how to plan for the next year or two. Based on their comments, I believe that it will be at least five years before we see a return to any large-scale planning efforts and community design, if at all. The future seems to lie with smaller scale developments.Rob Parker, ASLA, is the Design Principal at RGA Landscape Architects Inc. and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org