Courtesy Tavistock Development Co.

When it comes to developing new master plans, community amenities play a vital role. Not only can well-designed ones attract buyers to a new area or development, but they also hold the power to enhance residents’ day-to-day lives and strengthen communities long after move-ins.

To find out which amenities are most popular with today’s buyers, BUILDER consulted Rob Adams, senior vice president of residential at Tavistock Development Co. During Adams’ tenure with Tavistock, the 17 square-mile Lake Nona community has consistently ranked as one of the most innovative and top-selling master-planned communities in the country. Now, Sunbridge, a new master-planned community emerging on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida, is paving the way for the future of sustainable communities.

Ahead of his “Amenities of the Future” session with Curt Johansen, executive vice president at Triad Communities, at Future Place, Oct. 9 to 11, in Tampa, Florida, Adams answered some preliminary questions on the current state of master plan amenities.

BUILDER: What master plan amenities are most popular with today’s current buyers?

Adams: We continue to find that people are really drawn to community amenities that showcase a strong sense of place. This is something that large master-planned communities can offer but smaller communities often struggle with. Interconnected parks and trails with green spaces attract residents outside and into the community, while, at the same time, ‘third places’ and specially curated entertainment venues like Lake Nona’s Boxi Park serve as activated spaces for people to gather and connect. These are features that Tavistock has intentionally created in our large, urban centers as well as our neighborhood centers.

When it comes to placemaking, we also prioritize landscaping and artwork. In Lake Nona, we have a public art program that added more than 55 art pieces in 2022. We also host nearly 1,000 free community events each year.

Courtesy Tavistock Development Co.

BUILDER: Do the offerings change between buyer pools?

Adams: The offerings change slightly across the buyer segments, but you might be surprised by the overlap. Trail networks and outdoor gathering spaces remain popular across all ages. We’ve built a robust network of over 44 miles of trails in our Lake Nona community. Community swimming pools and gardens are also great places for all ages to enjoy. At Tavistock, we focus on bringing a mix of offerings for all-ages communities. While there may be playgrounds designed for toddlers, we also work to include things like fitness stations on trails.

BUILDER: Which are no longer favorable or not worth the time/money from a developer?

Adams: This one is hard to answer because it’s so site dependent. There are areas where large clubhouses, golf courses, and massive swimming facilities make sense in spite of the considerable capital outlay, while, in others, they may not generate enough demand and revenue for the community. Every project and location is unique.

BUILDER: Are there any up-and-coming amenities that just started to make their way in and will be popular in the future?

Adams: I see more and more water activations in master-planned communities. Nona Adventure Park is a great example of that in Lake Nona, where we took a large stormwater lake and transformed it with a water sports cable system and an inflatable obstacle course. So, what could have been just a nice water view has evolved into an attraction that brings people into the community and provides residents with another entertainment venue.

BUILDER: How does a developer balance the addition of current trending amenities and having those features age gracefully with the community?

Adams: Our buyers recognize and value timeless amenities first. As developers, we know that our initial focus should be on features like trails, parks, and play spaces for kids. In Lake Nona and Sunbridge, we spend considerable time figuring out how to make sure those are designed thoughtfully with high standards. Additionally, we continuously evaluate what new ideas we can bring into the community. The last thing we want to be is stale.

Courtesy Tavistock Development Co.

BUILDER: How has technology impacted master plan amenities?

Adams: We’ve seen the most impact with community apps for mobile devices. Residents can RSVP for community events, get community updates, and access amenities all through an easy-to-use mobile app. It becomes a one-stop shop for homeowners for everything in the community. And the developer can see in real time the interest and engagement with homeowners.

We strive to develop for the future and use technology in ways that create a frictionless experience for our residents and visitors. For example, we're Florida’s first gigabit community, having made the upfront investment to install more than 40,000 miles of fiber cable to deliver high-speed internet directly to residents, with the capacity to grow.

Additionally, Lake Nona is home to Move Nona, the largest and longest running single-site autonomous shuttle network in the country, in partnership with Beep. With convenient stops near residential hubs, residents can commute to our town center and village centers without ever needing to hop in their car.

BUILDER: Which of the above practices have you applied to Sunbridge or other new Tavistock communities?

Adams: Sunbridge opened with Base Camp, a themed outfitter shop and information center that doubles as a wonderful outdoor event space. This has become a ‘third place’ where residents can gather and share experiences. The community, which will feature more than 13,000 acres of preserved natural areas, will also be home to an expansive trail system that leverages the community’s conservation area and adjacent large county parks. We are also really excited about how we will activate the water at Sunbridge. The community is home to pristine freshwater lakes that will be accessed through our 53-acre man-made lake.

BUILDER: What’s your current favorite amenity?

Adams: I really love the way the Laureate Park Village Center came together in Lake Nona. It’s anchored by a large aquatic center but is really a vibrant collection of great places and spaces for residents and visitors. Canvas Restaurant & Market draws people from all over greater Orlando for a unique waterfront dining experience, and having our information center inside the market draws people again and again into conversations about the community and builder offerings. Additionally, the village center’s early childhood care and fitness centers provide education and wellness amenities to nurture personal development.