This coming weekend, something of a real estate experiment begins, on the grandest of scales.
Rancho Mission Viejo’s first village, Sendero, opens to the public, and for all the talk of ultimately 14,000 new homes east of San Juan Capistrano, less attention – at least locally – goes to the fact that a large percentage is targeting the retired or soon-to-be retired set.
When all is said and done in the two decades it may take to build out Orange County’s last super-sized development, 43 percent will be homes for 55-year-olds-plus. But if you’re thinking Laguna Woods Village, think again.
Here, the so-called seniors will be as integrated with the rest of the community as they want to be, but still have their separate facilities. Rancho Mission Viejo’s developers, known as “the Ranch” because they’ve owned the land since 1882 as a ranch, call it “ageless living.”
“We started on a journey in 2004-05 to look at the aging Baby Boom population,” said Paul Johnson, senior vice president of community development.
He and other Ranch representatives recently presented their resulting vision at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Diego as the first of its kind in the nation.
In coming up with the concept, the Ranch did its market research, Johnson said. In numerous queries, the targeted audience members gave their opinions about what aspects of life they’d be willing to share with other age groups – parks, community center, food and beverage facilities – and which they’d like to keep separate: health and fitness centers, pools and a game area, according to a presentation at the builder’s conference earlier this month.
They’re perfectly willing to intermingle with all the age groups, Johnson said, but they also want the developer to understand they need their own space as well, especially with the recreational amenities, Johnson said.
The end result is Sendero, a village of 941 detached homes and 286 apartments that includes a gated community just for 55-plus folks. The twist is that their age-restricted clubhouse, called the Hacienda, runs smack up against the all-ages community center. All they have to do to join the other residents at the firepit, all-ages pool or meeting rooms is walk through the back door.
The developer discovered 40-60 percent of those surveyed preferred set-up over the more traditional, giant-scale seniors-only projects.
“What we’re doing really isn’t seen across the country,” Johnson said. “It’s a different product.”