Forward thinking defines Victory, an active adult district in Verrado, a master planned community just off the 10 freeway that runs east-west through Phoenix. Set to open in early 2015, Victory will not isolate an over-55 population. Homes are in close proximity to a main street with a grocer, drugstore, bank, dentist, and doctors offices. “We wanted the town to feel like a place that grew organically, where commerce was the epicenter,” says developer Nick Taratsas, senior vice president of DMB Associates and general manager of Victory. “Formalizing neighborhoods off of that plan was the goal.” Homes are built in a variety of architectural styles and multigenerational floor plans are included. Garages are side- or rear-loaded; sidewalks are set back from curbs along tree-lined streets. “The secret sauce of Victory is the town planning,” says Taratsas.
While Victory is targeted to buyers over 55, Verrado is not an age-restricted community. Three years ago when DMB was considering entering the active adult market, “I thought, ‘I can’t satisfy the old school,’” Taratsas recalls. Suspecting that the 55-plus cohort was no longer OK with being at the edge of town, he and his team tested the hypothesis by talking to a sampling of 7,000 consumers. Passionate about holistic health and fitness, Taratsas also assembled a brain trust of experts (see Focus on Wellness: The A-Team, below).
Working alongside architect Manny Gonzalez, a senior principal at KTGY Group and one of the nation’s aging-in-place experts, Taratsas made a bold move—recruiting builders who didn’t have much experience with aging in place or active adult. The rationale? New ideas, with possibilities for diversity, choice, and beauty—especially when it came to universal design. “There really wasn’t much hand-holding,” says Gonzalez, who notes that builders who made the cut “knew they were going to learn in short order and came in with an open mind. It’s not just about downsizing and calling it age-qualified.” Gonzalez and KTGY created a pattern book that was right-on for the over-55 buyer, teaming up with aging-in-place expert Mary Jo Peterson (see "Universal Hero") and former Del Webb exec Deb Blake. Between them, Peterson and Blake can lay claim to almost four decades of experience in designing for the cohort whose numbers will approach 80 million in the decades to come.
“Active adult buyers don’t want to feel like pioneers,” says Andy Warren, president of Maracay Homes, one of four builders offering homes at Victory. Warren notes that the most compelling aspect of Victory is its being in the center of things. Pulling off 55-plus in an age-integrated setting is a balancing act of inclusivity and exclusivity: Active adults want to be where the action is, but they also expect certain amenities that probably don’t involve kids on skateboards. Victory delivers with features such as a pool; golf; hiking trails; language, art, and gardening classes; the chance to engage in community volunteer work; a restaurant that specializes in healthful food and is open to the public; and a team dedicated to making sure that all this programming remains relevant.
“If you want to get into this business, don’t go age-isolated,” Taratsas advises builders who are looking ahead to 2015 and beyond. “Sell to the 55-plus buyer and give them everything they’re used to getting.”
Focus on Wellness: The A-Team
DMB’s Nick Taratsas has a passion for wellness that informs Victory at Verrado’s entire approach to aging in place. To ensure features, design, and programming were spot-on, Taratsas and his team looked outside the real estate realm, gathering input from a variety of lifestyle experts who revealed that baby boomers are the first generation who, realistically, will live to 100. Insight was gained on nutrition, biomechanics, and a philosophy of aging. The intelligence culled and assembled was dubbed The Campfire Report. Here’s who contributed to DMB’s findings.
• Deborah Blake, Cecilian Worldwide—active adult business marketing and strategy
• Dr. Walter Bortz, M.D., Stanford University—longevity and robust aging
• Kathleen Cecilian, Cecilian Worldwide—strategic brand management
• Dr. Richard Knopf, Ph.D., Osher Lifelong Learning Institute—community development; lifetime learning
• Georgianna Marie, Experience Matters—life and business transitioning
• Dr. Jim Nicolai, Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medical Institute—whole-person medicine
• Dr. David Tiberio, Ph.D., The Gray Institute—biometrics and rehab medicine
• Bob Wiersma, The Gray Institute—bioergonomics