By Pat Curry. The goal for Grand Haven was fairly ambitious. "This was to be a land-based cruise ship," says Lakewood Homes president Buz Hoffman. "The thought was of being on vacation.It worked."

Apparently so. Grand Haven not only caught the eye of our panelists, but of the judges in this year's National Council on Seniors' Housing design awards. Grand Haven took the gold award for the best mid-sized active adult community, and the gold award for the best clubhouse, the 15,000-square-foot Grand Lodge.

As with several other nominees, Grand Haven is a community within a master planned development. Lakewood Falls is a 500-acre project 30 miles southwest of Chicago that will have about 6,000 homes at build-out, says Lakewood Homes executive vice president Christopher Shaxted.

Marketed as an adult resort community, Grand Haven is a 175-acre enclave. Adjacent to a public golf course, the community is a joint venture with active adult pioneer Del Webb, which contacted Hoffman because it wanted to do smaller projects that provided a faster return on investment. The chance to work with the masters on its first active adult project was too good to pass up.

Grand Haven

500 to 1,000 Units

Location: Romeoville, Ill.

Developers/builders: Lakewood Homes and Del Webb Corp.
Date opened: May 2001
Number of acres: 186
Number of units sold: 418
Number of units at build-out: 677
Anticipated build-out date: Spring 2004
Sales velocity: 22 units per month

"What better way to start the learning curve?" Hoffman says. "We've been able to build on Lakewood's reputation for customer satisfaction, combined with Del Webb's name for lifestyle." Marketing for the project started with teaser ads and direct mail, inviting prospective buyers to hotels and banquet halls to hear about the active adult lifestyle and to build a database list for the grand opening. Since the community opened, they've maintained traffic with a steady stream of events, such as an Antiques Road Show-style antiques appraisal day and financial seminars.

In his nomination, panelist Bill Becker noted the joint venture with Del Webb, which he says "shows how more than one builder can cooperate on a job." The two companies joined forces for advertising and marketing efforts. Del Webb manages the Grand Lodge; Lakewood is involved in planning activities.

Del Webb also has been helpful in addressing "a lot of association issues," Shaxted says, to establish the proper set of rules and regulations, and providing processes to get homeowners involved.

"It's all very proactive," he notes. "It's a professionalism the homeowners can see." Becker had high praise for the sales office and pricing that's "just right." The townhouse plans start at $159,000; single-family floor plans start at $172,000.

And of course, he pointed out the centerpiece Grand Lodge, which he described as "a knockout."

"When you have 2,000 people at the opening of a clubhouse," he says, "you're doing something right."

The success of Grand Haven has definitely piqued the interest of the builder in pursuing other active adult projects, preferably in the 700- to 1,000-unit range and definitely with Del Webb. "We could do another on Del Webb," Hoffman says. "You don't do one and not do more."

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