Note: This is Part 1 of a 3 part series. Here is the link to Part 2, “Jay Michaels’ Search for the Perfect Active Adult Community“, and Part 3: 5 Years Later
July 26, 2011 — Our friend Jay Michaels was kind enough to send us his notes about his recent trip to the Williamsburg, Virginia area and the 55+ communities located there. He and his wife are considering retirement there. We hope you enjoy his impressions as much as we did. BTW – have you been out visiting regions or communities – we’d like to hear from you too!
We visited Williamsburg a few weeks ago and liked it – it is an attractive area. Williamsburg is about 45 miles east of Richmond and closer than that to Newport News. The area is appealing to us because it keeps us reasonably close to our children but is also a bit warmer than the area of Pennsylvania where we currently live.
The people are open and friendly and seem to be very happy with living in Williamsburg. Just about everybody we met was enthusiastic about recommending it to us as a place to live. There is a lot to do there and the city has been experiencing growth. The history of the the Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown, and Colonial Williamsburg (the Historic Triangle) makes the area more interesting than a lot of places. Colonial Williamsburg has a very large area near several blocks of nice shops that is pedestrian only. Other attractions include The College of William and Mary, which is very near downtown Williamsburg. There is also the Christopher Wren Association for Adult Education at William and Mary. A historic highway that is quite scenic connects all of the points of interest.
As far as climate there are a couple of months of cold (average around 50) and a couple of months of heat – otherwise the climate seems ideal. The summer is a period of heavy tourism and traffic although we did not find it to be unbearable during our visit in July. Everything is pretty easy to get to from anywhere that we visited in the area.
There is a lot of development. Although that has slowed significantly during the recession, it is still continuing at a slower pace. The trend seems to be to build more affordable housing to have lower price points available to people. There is quite a bit of residential construction that is ongoing in various developments and residential areas. Given the continued growth I wonder at some point if it will become overcrowded. When asked the question about overcrowding and traffic the residents reply that the question is a good one but hopefully the planners are doing their job as they approve developments.
Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center is a 139 bed hospital that was opened in 2006. They also operate the Geddy Outpatient Care Center. Also Riverside Regional Medical Center is a 576 bed facility that is about twenty miles away. The Newport News -Williamsburg International Airport, about thirty miles away, has direct flights to many cities including Pittsburgh, New York, and Boston. The Richmond airport is also a possibility.
Developments we visited
I will summarize the developments that we visited. We made it a point to tell them we heard about their development on Top Retirements.com and spoke to them about the website (thanks JM!). Most were familiar with the website and spoke favorably about it.
The Settlement at Powhatan Creek
This development is on 225 acres just off of Monticello Boulevard. We met there with Jim Early who is the Director of Sales and Marketing. His telephone number is 757-645-3000 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an over 55 community.
The first phase of development is pretty far along. The houses are detached and attached and are intermediate in price. There is a 15,000 square foot community building with an indoor and outdoor pool and catering kitchen and large ballroom/activity area, and there is also a small exercise area. The building is attractive and can be used by residents for various activities and also is used by outside parties. They have an affiliation with Williamsburg National Golf Club that is several miles away.
The second phase is being built out by Ryan homes- different builder from first phase and price points will be lower.
We liked the development but did not see enough activity occurring on site for us. It seems like a nice quiet place to live that is pretty accessible to everything.
This is a very large and upper scale development. We met with Matt Hampton from Ford’s Colony and his number is 757-258-4001,cell-757-348-8128, and email email@example.com. We went on a parade of homes there. It is largely developed although there are some areas of future development for single family homes and there are some new condos for sale and another condo building that is near completion. There are some single family homes for under 400k and we were told this was not the case several years ago. There are villas that were built some time ago. We looked at one and it didn’t appear to be in good shape. There are three golf courses on the property. They keep one course open all of the time for non members and rotate the course that is open. While in the area we met someone who lived there.
Governor’s Land at Two Rivers
A realtor took us to this property with the firm of Liz Moore and Associates. A couple of people told us this was the most upscale of the Williamsburg developments and that you could not buy a house for under $600k. She showed us a house for $400k though that was not too bad. All of the dwellings are large single family homes with large lots. The development is on the James River and there is a dining, swimming pool and area of relaxation right on the river that is very beautiful. There is also another pool that we visited and talked to a resident who was very nice. He said a couple of homes on his street had dropped from the mid $1 millions to just under a million. We liked this area and the house we visited.
This is a very large and busy area that has lots of residential and commercial development together. It is on Monticello Street. We met with Lee Folsom who was with TWIDDY Realty, a large firm. He number is 757-220-4663, cell-757-254-4170, and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She was very nice and is very professional. The idea in this planned, new urban community is that you can walk anywhere from where you live to do most of your shopping and leisure activities. There are lots of restaurants, a movie theater, health club and a lot of businesses. We thought it was too city like for us but would probably appeal more to younger people. The development up until recently was townhouses and villas but they are just beginning to build out single family homes. We looked at these and they are quite nice and are affordable in the 350-600 range from what we could tell.
This is the oldest and best known of the developments and also has a large tourist resort. It is on the James River and has a nice marina and swimming area. It is an upscale community similar to Ford’s Colony with several golf courses on the property. We drove through it and visited some rental properties with a realtor. One was nice and the other two were really old and shabby. We did not look at any homes in Kingsmill. If I were going to live in a development like this my sense is I would prefer Ford’s Colony or Governor’s Land based on the limited amount I saw but I did not really spend enough time there to conclude anything.
This is a Lennar community. Phases one and two are just about sold out and they are beginning Phase three. We met with Tom Conway from Lennar. Another experienced realtor in the area who lives at Colonial Heritage is Shirley Kappa at 757-565-2565. New homes and villas are currently being built in in the $275 k to $400k range and they have been selling at about 100 units a year. 700 homes and villas have been sold to date and the development total will be around 1500. This is less upscale than some of the other communities and the homes are pretty close together. There are no large and expensive homes. It is an over 55 community. There is an Arthur Hills golf course that looks great, an indoor pool, a nice fitness area with training coach, nice clubhouse with restaurant and bar and outside dining area overlooking golf course. There is a $240 per month fee for use of everything in the community except golf which is an additional $175 per month. We talked to a couple of residents and they are enthusiastic about the community and say that several people have just moved from more expensive communities to Colonial Heritage. We saw people more actively involved with activities than in the other communities. Our sense was that if you want a reasonably priced community that is low key and friendly with a lot of activities and where status is not important, this may be the right place.
Northern Neck area
On the way home we drove through the major communities of Northern Neck. It is very remote and I did not see anything going on there that would be of interest to me.
For further Reference
Part 2: Jay Michaels Further Adventures in Active Adult Community Land
Part 3: Jay Michaels Tour 5 Years Later
Virginia Directory of Active Adult Communities
Sandy’s Active Adult Adventures: Part I
Sandy’s Adventures: Part II
Have you had some experience in the Williamsburg area? Let us know about it in the Comments section below.