Shifting demographics and master-planned communities

By Jamie Squires
March 13, 2022

Will we ever again work, shop or socialize like we did before the pandemic? It’s hard to predict the future when it comes to our new habits, but one thing is clear — many young Canadians are looking to escape downtown living as they seek additional space, fresh air and a different kind of close-knit community.

A 2021 Bloomberg news article reported these sentiments have led to a national trend to shift away from urban centres in favour of the suburbs, a trend we’re seeing play out locally, and expect will continue through 2022 and beyond.
Part of what is fueling this trend is the evolution of master-planned communities coupled with new lifestyle and career conveniences such as working from home and the rise of remote meetings. This is a process that is just getting started and developers and designers should take notice.

Suburbanites may lament the loss of their favourite downtown coffee shop, gym or grocery store, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Developers and city planners can address the needs of today’s homebuyers who are seeking space, community-focused living and access to essential amenities through thoughtful, creative and well-designed master-planned communities.

What is a master-planned community?

Master-planned communities are suburban neighbourhoods developed as “people-first” from inception. These large-scale communities typically feature thoughtfully designed streets, courtyards, playgrounds and “nice-to-have” amenities such as shopping centres, golf courses and a variety of dining options all steps away from residential dwellings.
It’s time to think creatively

While our urban core tends to appeal to a wide demographic, from young professionals to singles and students, it’s often families who struggle to find spaces that are “family friendly” in the urban environment.

Master-planned communities in the suburbs provide wide open spaces for recreation, fitness, fresh air and pets, not to mention more home for less money. Developed with well-lit streets, landscaping and ample parking, master-planned communities offer three important things to families: comfort, convenience, and space.

But as more young people come to the suburbs, they’re going to bring a more diverse set of needs and wants to master-planned concepts.

Elevated amenity spaces

Many urbanites miss the walkability, transit, amenities and socialization that are often missing in suburban spaces. With master-planned communities, residents can and should have access to all the perks of urban living but with more space, better value and unique services, shops and amenities.

These communities should offer elevated and curated commercial and amenity spaces such as grocery stores, fitness centres and co-working spaces. Daycare spaces and programs would go a long way at expanding the attraction and value of a new project.

Master-planned communities should also be strategically built with transit in mind, keeping the community connected to urban centres. As development companies make long-term land-buying decisions, it’s crucial to select sites that are reasonably well connected to suburban hubs in places like West Coquitlam, Surrey City Centre, Langley, and Moody Centre. This will make these communities even more appealing to urbanites who are looking for a change but can take public transit to the city to visit friends or their favourite coffee shop.

Flexible design

Remote work has imposed a shift onto the home and location selection process for buyers in the ‘burbs. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of space, a requirement that is top-of-mind for today’s homebuyer. Homes that include flexible den space or co-working amenity areas compatible with video meeting tools and new work habits will be more attractive for buyers and residents.

Master-planned communities and changing needs

As the requirements of homebuyers continue to evolve, there is an opportunity with master-planned communities to meet these needs, which will draw attention from homebuyers and investors alike.

About Jamie Squires

Jamie Squires is Senior Vice President & Managing Broker at Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing Ltd, and has has over 18 years in the industry. Fifth Avenue now has over 40 years of experience Bringing People Home in the Fraser Valley and beyond, and brings an unparalleled level of expertise and an innovative approach to the marketing and sales of new-home developments from the ground up.

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