Car-Free Communities

Culdesac will be the first neighborhood-scale community with zero residential parking, which will allow for more open spaces that can be used for socializing, events, and getting to know your neighbors.

Rendering by Opticos Design.

A five-minute city, car-free and golf cart centered communities are gaining momentum around the United States, from Port Aransas, Texas, to Tempe, Arizona.

With plenty of extra outdoor space, Culdesac will hold over 150 events per year, including concerts, food trucks on the plaza, outdoor yoga classes, and more that guests can enjoy close to home.

Rendering by Opticos Design.

Automobiles have long been a symbol of freedom and advancement, making it easy to overlook the strain they put on our communities and the environment. Even smaller cities are battling noise and air pollution as the number of cars per household increases. Long commutes, congested traffic routes, parking fees, and pollution have all encouraged a whole new way of thinking when it comes to cars.

Culdesac, in Tempe, Arizona is the first car-free community in the United States that has been built from top to bottom around the idea that cities can be made better. “The vision has always remained the same — to build cities for people and not cars,” says Culdesac’s general manager, Lavanya Sunder. Space that is typically reserved for roads, parking lots, and individual parking has been completely rethought in this rental apartment community. Parking lots and garages have been replaced with wide-open spaces that offer everything from fire pits and hammocks to water features and inviting courtyards.

Tempe, Arizona, offered the ideal canvas for a project like Culdesac. “We chose Tempe for its thriving job market, proximity to transportation, and forward-thinking, action-oriented local government,” says Sunder. These are among the added benefits when considering a car-free community.

“By removing parking lots, we were able to see all of the possibilities, twice the retail, triple the open space, and 55-percent landscape coverage, compared to less than 20 percent from comparable developments,” notes Sunder.

The community was designed as a five-minute city, meaning everything residents might need is within reach and life is at your front door. “Homes at Culdesac all open up to vibrant shared courtyards, versus impersonal hallways in traditional apartment complexes,” says Sunder. Seemingly small details such as this contribute to the overall atmosphere that is created when a place urges its residents to slow down. “Community is a key component of Culdesac. Culdesac will have over 150 events per year, including concerts, food trucks on the plaza, outdoor yoga classes, and more.”

Communities such as Culdesac are finding that residents are drawn to the idea of knowing their neighbors again. A notion that hasn’t been overlooked in other communities around the United States. Port Aransas, Texas, is a beautiful beach destination that is like traveling back in time. The eclectic atmosphere is entirely accessible by golf carts, including the 18 miles of beach, with spacious boardwalks that accommodate the carts and encourage foot traffic. The use of golf carts decreases traffic, noise and pollution, and creates a very relaxed pace around the island. Cinnamon Shore, the 1,000-acre, master-planned beachfront community is very walkable and designed with families in mind who want to enjoy the small-town feel in Port Aransas.

A private luxury community, Haig Point, on the northern end of Daufuskie Island in South Carolina is only accessible by ferry, and the island is almost entirely car-free. Residents and guests never have to worry about traffic, stopping for gas, or finding a parking space, as the island runs mainly on golf carts. Similarly, Fire Island, across the Great South Bay from Long Island, New York, is another popular summer retreat that functions smoothly without cars. Bikes, golf carts, and jet skis are the best way to experience the Fire Island’s top-tier accommodations.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “the mean number of vehicles in households is 1.9 personal vehicles…. Thus, it appears that households on average have more vehicles than drivers.” American cities, from New York to San Francisco, are struggling to provide enough space to merely park all of these vehicles, nevermind drive them.

Our personal space, green space, shared space, and even sidewalks have decreased significantly over the years as the need to accommodate a growing number of automobiles increases. 

Communities such as Culdesac are hoping it is time for the urban form to be rethought and upgraded. “We also will have an “Extend Your Home On-Demand” Program,” says Sunder. 

Communities such as Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas, Texas, are embracing the idea that guests want a slower pace without sacrificing accessibility.

©istockphoto.com / IR_Stone

Car-free and golf cart centered communities are designed for those looking to reconnect with the outdoors and spend less time stuck in traffic.

©istockphoto.com / 300dpi

 “Residents will have access to a variety of bookable spaces to allow them to expand and contract their home as needed.” A modern way of living has melded with the traditional idea of small-town communities. “Culdesac will have bookable guest suites, podcast studios, hosting spaces, and day-use office spaces to allow your home to adjust to your needs,” Sunder explains. “Why pay for a guest room 365 days a year, when you only use it a few times a month?”

Forever shifting to accommodate the residents’ needs, a car-free community like Culdesac is ideal for many people, even during these changing times amidst a pandemic. “The idea of life at your front door makes Culdesac Tempe a place that a variety of people with different needs are interested in — young professionals, students, families, remote workers, retirees, empty nesters, et cetera,” says Sunder. More spacious apartments and public workspace are functional for those residents who are working remotely, as they also don’t have to worry about commuting into an office every day. Since the pandemic, “we’ve seen increased interest from folks particularly from New York and San Francisco, and 50 percent of our waitlist are people coming from outside Arizona,” notes Sunder.

3 ocean watch photo courtesy of Haig Point; all others ©Dennis burnett photography

Daufuskie Island offers Southern charm and comfort that can only be found on an island with no bridges. Accessible by a 30-minute ferry ride, my journey to the Haig Point community began and ended with relaxation. Catching a glimpse of diving dolphins as I left the mainland behind was a warm welcome into the exclusive area. The sea island just off the coast of South Carolina, which is easily accessible from Savannah, is one that wholeheartedly embraces the easy pace of the Lowcountry.

“As soon as people step off the ferry they
typically fall in love with the island lifestyle,” says Lauren Hunt, the programming and communications manager at the private, member-owned Haig Point. “Their genuine commitment to the island is why they choose to build and live here.” Members welcomed me with open arms and shared the island’s charming attributes, all with similar stories of visiting and deciding to stay for the long haul. 

If the 29-hole Rees Jones golf course, equestrian center, award-winning tennis facility, and beach club don’t entice you, the real estate will. It ranges in size and price, creating a diverse community with something to offer everyone. Haig Point goes beyond vacation and second homes. Permanent residents are enjoying the influx of younger residents. “More families under age 55 joined in the past three years than the previous 10 combined,” says Hunt. An island destination with no traffic — the island runs on electric golf carts — is an ideal opportunity for those hoping to enjoy a smaller, safer environment for their families.

Homesites for building your dream home and a collection of existing properties make up the variety of real estate within the current 270-home development. On the market for $2.995 million, 3 Ocean Watch in Haig Point was designed and built to the highest standards with stunning heart pine and woodwork soured from a 200-year-old house. Other properties range in price from the mid $300,000s to $3 million.

The island won’t be threatened by commercialization or overcrowding, due to building restrictions, according to Hunt. The community’s Architectural Review Board ensures the nature and integrity of the island remain intact alongside development. Across the water, Hilton Head Island is visible. “Hilton Head Island has 2 million visitors annually. That means easy accessibility to great restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. And with only an eight-minute commute, our hourly water taxi makes it easy to escape back to the solitude of Haig Point,” says Hunt.

3 Ocean Watch offers Calibogue Sound views.

Enjoy uncrowded, pristine beaches.

Haig Point offers a private Equestrian Center.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE GLOBAL 2019 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

Raise your IQ as you indulge in these one-of-a-kind amenities. Communities are constantly coming up with new ways to create impressive amenities for their residents and guests, and these communities are doing just that. 

From studying the stars through a luxury telescope, to hands-on learning from conservationists, residents at these communities are offered the chance to learn from the comfort of their own homes. 

Study the Stars in Style

As you are perched atop a protected hilltop, set up a telescope and take in the stars at Headwaters — a tech-inflected home community developed by Freehold Communities.

The structure has been carefully deconstructed to become the setting for a stargazing amphitheater. Astronomers from the University of Texas frequently gather with Headwaters families to create a high-touch, outdoor classroom for residents to learn about celestial events — eclipses, meteor showers and supermoons.

Located in Dripping Springs, Texas, the Headwaters integrates 1,000 homes within expanses of natural habitat, eight miles of walking trails, as well as five protected hilltops.

Photos courtesy of Freehold Communities

Learn from Onsite Conservationists

With thousands of acres of unspoiled nature and 32 miles of riverfront, Palmetto Bluff offers a natural classroom where teachers — onsite conservationists and guides — run tours, classes, workshops and field trips open to all residents of the luxury, South Carolina community. Learn about life oaks, wild turkeys and other Low Country flora and fauna on bike, horseback or on foot, or head to the May River to explore by kayak, canoe or paddle board.

Looking to learn about the area’s rich history? Onsite archeologist Dr. Mary Socci leads artifact hunting expeditions from past communities dating back 12,000 BC and even leads cemetery walks that include past inhabitants’ pets.

Photos courtesy of Palmetto Bluff

Explore Surrounding Nature

At the Walden Monterey, the luxury agrihood where expansive lots will start in the $5 millions, developers are launching a tree-naming app described as “Pokémon go meets Google Sky, but for trees.” The goal? To increase residents’ interactions with nature through gamification.

Focus on Sustainability and Environmentalism

Located along Ecuador’s Pacific Riviera in the town of Puerto Caya, Oceanside Farms allows residents to gather for onsite lectures and TedX presentations focusing on sustainability and environmentalism.

Discover Astronomy from an Astronomer  

For those interested in astronomy, Mountain Shadows is the place to be. The destination offers the Cocktails Under the Cosmos Series and the Spirited Sipping SeminarsAstronomy lessons take place at the hotel’s Camelback Overlook rooftop deck, offered to both hotel guests and residents of the community. Each astronomer-led event features a signature cocktail themed around that month’s astrological sign, which can be seen brighter in the valley due to its low light pollution and dramatic desert backdrop.

Through its Random Acts of Kindness campaign, real estate marketing leader Parkbench.com encourages good deeds in every neighborhood.

By Roger Grody

One of the fastest-growing start-ups in the real estate industry is Parkbench.com, an innovative, neighborhood-based collaborative through which real estate professionals enhance their presence in the community. The platform also hosts businesses, residents and nonprofit organizations, connecting people on multiple levels and strengthening communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The Toronto-based company was founded by entrepreneur Grant Findlay-Shirras and his wife Amanda Newman, a local Realtor. The concept, which establishes an exclusive website for a Realtor in every neighborhood, provides a vehicle through which that real estate professional can build his or her business while creating a more cohesive, tightknit community. After launching his wife’s website in 2013, Findlay-Shirras founded Parkbench.com to accommodate demand from Realtors in every state and province.

Parkbench.com CEO
Grant Findlay-Shirras

“Everybody who lives, works or plays in a neighborhood has something to say, and this platform provides immense value to the community while building a Realtor’s brand,” says the CEO. Findlay-Shirras explains Parkbench.com allows Realtors to elevate their roles to what they once were: pillars of the community who generate referrals by collaborating with local businesses, residents and organizations. It is a technology-driven approach to old-fashioned relationships.

“All Realtors want to provide value to their communities and expand their spheres of influence, but most don’t know how to go about it,” says Findlay-Shirras, who adds, “We believe in the Law of Reciprocity. Those who provide value to their communities will prosper.” Parkbench.com has also become the largest single provider of local news, aggregating local content from around the Internet and updating it daily on its Realtors’ respective websites.

Because Parkbench.com’s mission is to make neighborhoods stronger, both socially and economically, a corporate culture of giving comes naturally. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last August, Parkbench.com donated 10 percent of its revenue the following month to the nonprofit Feeding Texas. This past February, the firm implemented a Random Acts of Kindness campaign in honor of National Random Acts of Kindness Week, February 11-17, 2018.

“The entire company is built on this motto: Give value first, and have faith that you will receive something in return,” says Findlay-Shirras, who adds, “And why not give it randomly to see people’s awesome reactions?” The Parkbench.com CEO, who created the Local Leader® Marketing System used by his network of 1,000-plus Realtors, reports that members in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada — including New York, Vancouver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Austin, Philadelphia, Seattle, Toronto, and Miami — participated in the February campaign.

Among the random acts of kindness extended by Parkbench.com, Realtors were buying coffee for the neighborhood, handing out flowers on Valentine’s Day, reprising the lost art of dispensing compliments to strangers, and cleaning up litter in the community. Local Realtors videotaped and posted their random acts for a companywide competition, with the winning Realtor receiving $1,000 to donate to his or her favorite charity.

Parkbench.com also supports nonprofits beyond the neighborhood level, and selected causes have included fostering entrepreneurship in Kenya, assisting the homeless and funding disaster relief. “The spirit of the company is giving to the community,” reminds Findlay-Shirras of Parkbench.com’s core value. “That’s who we are.”

Photo courtesy of Parkbench.com

An award-winning team introduces Veridian Grove, a serene oasis situated outside the hustle and bustle of Miami’s urban core.

Within the new gated tropical modern enclave are 20 contemporary homes, each individually crafted by an award-winning team. The team, comprised of Sotolongo Salman Henderson Architects LLC and Deena Bell of Bell Landscape Design, is known for balancing modern design with its natural surroundings.

Veridian Grove encompasses the best of South Florida, bringing together the outdoor beauty of this tropical paradise with modern, sleek design. The community incorporates modern elements, luxurious appointments and eco-conscious landscaping to create the perfect tropical retreat.

Sotolongo Salman Henderson Architects, which has created innovative designs for more than 25,000 residential units in South Florida and the Caribbean, incorporated their unique conceptual vision to truly set this community apart.

Veridian Grove features four fully customizable estate homes nestled in a lush tropical oasis — the Sequoia, the Cypress, the Ivy and the Palm.

Each of the homes has its own allure, be it a sun-drenched infinity pool, individualized design or a relaxation-ready gazebo. Every concept offers an expansive rooftop patio, complete with wood flooring, a retractable canopy, hot tub and summer kitchen.

Photos courtesy of Sotolongo, Salman, Henderson

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