If you haven’t noticed, not every active adult community is created equal. Depending on the skill and commitment of the developer, the community can be interesting and an easy joy to live in – or boring and inconvenient. Some of the most interesting examples of the best community designs are evident in the 2008 Best in American Living Awards (BALA), which were just announced. The awards are sponsored by a panel of judges put together by Professional Builder, a division of the National Association of Home Builders. There are a number of categories (and all of the winners are worth looking at), but this article concerns the 2008 winners for the Communities division. Common themes among the winners include plentiful public spaces, a sense of community, green (sustainable) principles, and interesting amenities.
The grand prize for a community was won by Domus in Philadelphia’s University Park (which also won for Best Urban SmartGrowth). This new infill project was built in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, and obviously has a big attraction for baby boomers seeking retirement near a college campus. The project integrates residential space with commercial uses and an impressive amount of public recreational land. The buildings within Domus feature three distinct outdoor rooms that go from fully public to semi-private to private areas. Residences include amenities such as bamboo wood floors, white membrane roofing and private courtyards. Dennis Oppenheim’s “Wave Forms” outdoor sculpture is a popular feature. For Domus pictures.
Hampton Lake in beautiful Bluffton, SC was the BALA winner in Best Community:more than 151 units. Hampton Lake is a good example of what could have been a boring golf community turned into an exciting, mixed generation, lake side community with a resort-style amenity complex. Conservation is emphasized with the lake and a 340-acre nature preserve with 9 miles of trails. There are waterfront and wooded homesites, low-maintenance carriage and villa homes and vacation town homes. The heart of Hampton Lake is Lakeside Village with its family-friendly amenities: themed restaurant, general store, nature center, spa and fitness center, pools, boathouse, beach, overnight camping island and dog park. Pictures
Best Suburban Smart Growth Award went to The Residence at SouthPark. This project in Charlotte NC unites four stories of luxury residential units with 80,000 square feet of ground-level retail. Judges noted that the project successfully integrates several existing site features. The city of Charlotte was involved in the project to help carefully place the project so that it renovates an historic civic space and fountain on a prominent corner, preserving some well loved mature trees. The building’s U-shaped courtyard reinforces a sense of community and does not overwhelm the cityscape. SouthPark photos.
Washington Town Center, a mixed-use community, had the task of creating a distinctive identity for Robbinsville, N.J., a sprawling and affluent community with no downtown center. The overall plan includes parks, walking trails and other open public spaces. The design succeeds, judges noted, in inviting the community at large into its shops, restaurants and residential neighborhoods. Washington Town Center includes single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes. Historically accurate details include front yards with brick pier and iron fencing or hedgerows. The commercial part of the Center includes condominium units above ground-floor retail. Photos
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