PLAN AHEAD: Siting parks and playing fields between neighborhoods and schools means the spaces can be used more (and more cost-effectively) by residents, the school district, and the city parks department.
PLAN AHEAD: Siting parks and playing fields between neighborhoods and schools means the spaces can be used more (and more cost-effectively) by residents, the school district, and the city parks department.

It seems like a simple idea, which is probably why it will work. At RiverPark, a just-opened, 702-acre, 2,800-home, mixed-use community in Oxnard, Calif., the grounds serving the two elementary schools and one middle school planned for the development will be shared with the city's recreational programs, creating a joint-use scenario that conserves land, saves money, and fosters community among residents. “The biggest benefit to us is that [joint-use parks] add to the activity and vitality of the community,” says Steve Seeman, vice president and regional manager for Shea Homes, the developer and one of three builders at RiverPark.

The city will maintain the playgrounds and multipurpose fields in exchange for using them after school and on weekends for various sports and recreational programs. The school district, meanwhile, benefits from not having to budget for such maintenance, while residents won't have to travel beyond the community's borders to play city-rec soccer or softball.

“The schools can use that money for educational programs, while the city creates more opportunities and access to recreational programs for our homeowners,” says Seeman, whose marketing materials (along with those of the other two builders) emphasize the proximity of city-run programs. The schools themselves, which Shea Homes is building, are being designed with gyms, libraries, and multipurpose rooms near their entrances for other joint-use plans. One of the few new large-scale developments left in Ventura County, RiverPark opened for sales in September, with one school ready and another breaking ground.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: Joint-use parks at RiverPark, Oxnard, Calif.; Developer: Shea Homes, Walnut, Calif.; Cost: Three schools, including grounds, $110 million

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Oxnard, CA.