The 55+ Housing Council had a great time in Arizona on their housing project tour. Read Andy Bowden's, Principal at Land Concern, account of the Council's adventure.
Author’s note: This is to be read with the music of Arlo Gutherie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ playing in the background.
My alarm went off at 5:00 am as it does every morning and I hurried to get ready for the 55+ Housing Council’s tour of some great active adult projects in Phoenix, Arizona. This was quite a ‘departure’ for our council (pardon the pun), as in years past, the tours had always been of projects local to Orange County or surrounding areas. Our Programs Committee, headed up by Nick Lehnert of KTGY Architecture and Planning and Ann Cutner of IMA Design Group came up with the great idea to ‘expand our horizons’ and to tour projects in not only another area, but in another state.
Phoenix, Arizona…, is home to the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Diamondbacks, thousands of rattlesnakes, scorpions, roadrunners and coyotes, as well as two very successful active adult communities, Victory at Verrado and Trilogy at Vistancia. It’s also the place you go to get out of the cold in the north and the crowds in the west, where the air is clear, and 100 degree heat is commonplace (all together now, ‘but it’s a dry heat’) from May through October.
We met at the gate the flight was leaving from and that gave us a little bit of time to network a little. Everyone was saying how easy the check-in process was. However, one or two did say that they were a little disappointed that the TSA didn’t give them a pat down…, (insert appropriate slightly off color joke of your choice here). Some who weren’t seasoned travelers didn’t quite understand that when the TSA officer said that you were to remove shoes, belts, jackets and anything from your pockets didn’t mean that you ended up on the other side of the machine wearing only your underwear. (Okay…, it was me. I’m not too proud to admit it. I said that I was 55+. They were very understanding, and passed me through the screening process very quickly, so it worked to my advantage).
The flight was well coordinated thanks to Denise Kennedy at BIASC and all went off without a hitch. Someone (who shall remain nameless but whose first name is Ann) was kind enough to pass out free drink tickets to all who were traveling on Southwest with the main group before we boarded the plane. Several, (who shall also remain nameless but were seated together in the same row) decided to start the trip off right with a little Bloody Mary. (All went well until they started to do the ‘wave’ which we all thought was fun until the pilot came over the loudspeaker and said that we were rocking the boat and could we all please take our seats). We could tell that this was going to be a GREAT trip!
We landed at the Phoenix airport without further incident and met up with several others who had arrived separately and all of us jammed into the two large 7 passenger SUV’s and drove out to our first destination. It was kind of close quarters riding in the backseat of the SUV and if you didn’t know the person sitting next to you…, you became very acquainted by the time we arrived at the Verrado Coffee Company and Info Center, (I’m not sure…, and I think that I might have gotten to first base with the person next to me).
We were all very impressed with the number of really great community features that were provided by homeownership in Verrado as a whole, and by the “….8 x 10 glossy photos with circles and arrows with a description on the back saying what each one was…..” that were hanging on the walls. But what some of us were really impressed with was the chart on one of the rear walls that showed all of the various homebuilders and the prices of the homes that were being offered. Prices in Victory started in the high $200’s and went up to the low $500’s. Basically, you could buy a very nice 2,000 square foot home for the same price as what you’d pay for a carport in Orange County! Proving that, “….you can get anything you want at Victory at Verrado!” (By now, that song should be playing in your head the entire time that you’re reading this. If not, download the song on ITunes and play it while you continue reading).
From there, Chuck Disney, overall master planned community designer and the ‘very distant cousin to Walt…, and all of his money,’ invited us to tour Victory. We then loaded back into the SUV’s and drove the short distance through the Main Street District to the model complex. Located on the Tom Lehman designed golf course, the model complex is adjacent to what they call ‘The Big Patio’, a very nice sales center with a large shaded patio (hence the name…, duh!) complete with a beautiful outdoor kitchen facility, large enough to have community events. There’s also a Golf Playground which includes a putting green and a small 4 hole practice course for those wishing to improve their short game which would be very enjoyable while having a few ‘adult beverages’ (I mean this is a 55+ community after all) with some friends in the late evening after it’s cooled off.
The landscape of the overall community is definitely ‘Desert Themed’ (of course, it’s in a desert) and as such utilizes a lot of really drought tolerant trees and shrubs. But as this is located in a very dry and arid part of the City, the style of the landscape blends in well with the surrounding area and is in keeping with the natural native beauty that is indicative of this style. The builders included Lennar, Standard Pacific (now CalAtlantic), Maracay Homes, and David Weekly Homes. We were all very impressed by the quality of the presentation.
From there, we went ‘up the hill’ to the Victory Club for lunch at ‘The Vic’. The food was very good and we enjoyed a shaded outdoor dining experience out on the veranda that overlooks the terraced pool area. By this time, the temperature was reaching 98 degrees, but we didn’t really seem to notice it as (all together now), ‘it’s a dry heat.’
After lunch, we took a tour of the Victory Club and the surrounding area. It’s located high up on top of a stony hill and the view from the patio that is off of the main club facility is absolutely breath taking. One could only imagine what that view must be like at night, looking down on all of Verrado and the surrounding areas. It was truly a beautiful ‘sight’ as well as a beautiful ‘site’ for an active adult community. But we were tight for time and had to hustle off, or ‘David Hasselhoff’ as I heard someone exclaim as they were being rushed away.
Back in the SUV’s once again, and we were off and traveled across to the other side of town to Shea Homes’ Trilogy at Vistancia. As soon as we arrived, we could see that this was built somewhat earlier as the landscaping was mature, with ponds and waterfalls and green grass everywhere, something that is becoming less and less frequently seen back home, (or will be in the not so distant future). This was certainly not at all a desert style landscape, it evoked images of what you’d see in Palm Springs with lush landscaping and golf courses everywhere you look.
We pulled up to the Trilogy Info Center located at the 35,000 square foot Kiva Club. This houses many of the main amenities that are available at Vistancia like the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a health spa, ballroom facility, athletic club and a small café. They are in the process of building a new club facility within the development that will is currently under construction which when completed will be called the Mita Club.
We toured some of indoor and outdoor amenities. I was particularly impressed by the indoor swimming pool that was very large and could accommodate a large number of people. The outdoor swimming pool was in high use with a number of people enjoying the beautiful day while keeping cool. We then went over to the model complex where we went through some of the more popular floor plans.
By this time, it was time for us to troop back to the SUV’s once again for the long trek back to the Phoenix Airport in time to catch our flight home. We ended up getting back to the airport with just a little time to spare. We went through the airport security line with no problems, though once again I heard comments (complaints?) about not being stripped searched or padded down. Some people are just hard to please….
The flight back was very nice and quiet with no raucous laughter, cheering, or people doing ‘the wave’ as they walked to the restroom at the back of the plane. I attributed this to either that our group was very tired or…., that Ann had run out of drink tickets.
The trip was a great opportunity to see what others are doing in other areas that influence home buying for the active adult marketplace. My one big takeaway from this experience was that while the floorplans and architectural styles are somewhat similar to what is built in our area, the lifestyles are different and that we need to pay more attention to the amenities that we offer in our communities. That and next time I need to get more drink tickets from Ann! :o)
Ike Balmaseda - Dahlin Group Architects
Yuri Bast - Descante Design
Andy Bowden - Land Concern, Landscape Architecture
Ann Cutner – IMA Design Group
Julie Ernest – Brinks Home Security
Chris Francis – Brinks Home Security
Rian Graber – MEYERS
Geoff Graney – KTGY Architecture and Planning
Joe Hammond – Rick Engineering
Valerie Hardman – Outdoor Dimensions
Denise Kennedy - BIASC
Joe Kody – Expressions Home Gallery
Rita Lamkin – Preface, Inc.
Nick Lehnert – KTGY Architecture and Planning
Anthony Sandoval – WSH Management
Lisa Klang Schriver – Klang & Associates Interior Design
Janet Sharp – Home Smart
Trent Schneeberger – SeniorHousingNet