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Urban Land Magazine takes a look at how master planned communities are turning conventional wisdom on its head.

Millennials and baby boomers were expected to transform the housing market as they grew older. Finicky younger buyers would demand new designs and urban lifestyles, shunning their parents’ suburban neighborhoods. At the same time, downsizing boomers would trade their large suburban homes for downtown condominiums, leaving outlying communities with fading strip malls and unwanted houses, some analysts predicted.

It has not worked out that way. The two largest demographic groups in history are not behaving as many prognosticators thought they would. Millennials are having families and buying houses in the suburbs, just as their parents did. Instead of fleeing the suburbs, many boomers are “aging in place,” refusing to sell their large homes or give up their jobs.

Faced with buyers who are not acting as expected, builders have been forced to reconsider their strategies. “Our business model has really changed in the last three years,” says Haythem Dawlett, principal of Austin, Texas–based Legend Communities, which has shifted its focus to active-adult projects. Developers, investors, and analysts are racing to figure out what millennials and boomers really want. New opportunities are emerging as old models lose their luster.

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