During the Urban Land Institute (ULI) “Master-Planned Communities 2020: What Does the Future Look Like?” panel at the fall meeting in 2010, a panel of urbanists and developers drew conclusions on the future of the market, which needs to be addressed by those working in sustainable community planning and development. The points seem well reasoned and authoritative. We present them here as a provocative list that can stimulate our conversation here at Vision 2020. The summary comes from an article at ULI by John Martin.

• There will be more renters—both of single-family homes and other kinds of dwelling units—so developers need to figure out how to take advantage of the shift.

• Niche marketing will increase dramatically. Numerous niches exist that the industry has not even begun to understand, and each will have its own nuances. Developers need to consider how they can make money by satisfying one or several of these niches. For example, master-planned communities have not done a good job of dealing with the aging population and how to design for it.

• Ethnic diversity will increase, which will make the industry’s current understanding of this niche seem trivial. People in the industry think they understand “the Asian market” or “the Hispanic market,” but, in fact, the Asian market is 50 different markets, as is the Hispanic market. Ten years from now, the United States will be even more of a melting pot. Developers need to consider the different needs of the first, the second, and the third generation of immigrants when developing product.

• Fewer people will be commuting by car to work five days a week. Developers need to think about how this is going to affect master-planned communities, houses, apartments, and offices.

• The women’s market will require particular attention. It is widely acknowledged that women make the decisions about where they and their families live. And the power they hold in the market is going to grow as their rising wages increase their purchasing power.

• There will be more of a merger between product and services, meaning the merger of a place to live and facilities that provide desired services, be it health care, education, technology, or a sense of community. Developers need to determine which services to provide, how to merge them with the housing product itself, and how to turn that combination into an income stream long term.

• The amount of mixed-use space in master-planned communities will increase because it will boost absorption in both large and small planned communities, allowing the developer to exit sooner. Mixed uses also help create the cool places where so many people want to live. Some mixed use has the potential for value creation, allowing developers to get more money from the pieces in a planned community. For example, people will pay more for the right kind of housing if a restaurant is next door, or to live in a housing project if a daycare center and a school are nearby.

• There will be more global partners and global players in the U.S. master-planned community market. Historically, there have been few—mainly home builders and developers from the United Kingdom or Canada. However, developers need to consider what the impact will be in 10 years when the U.S. market has more global players.

• There will be more business model changes as developers work with their home builder partners, apartment partners, nonprofits, churches, businesses, and other partners. The relationships will change, and new ways to finance projects will be found. Financing will be a problem, so new relationships with builders and others are going to be important.

• The way planned communities are created is going to change, with developers getting customers, cities, and communities engaged in the development process a lot earlier.

• The industry—which in a lot of ways is prehistoric and dinosaur-like—is going to mature, with developers becoming more sophisticated, and customers benefiting because of it.

• The environment will become more and more important. In 2020, in a world where gasoline may cost $10 per gallon, changes are coming in how communities are created, how they are planned, and how they handle energy use.

• Severe water shortages are on their way, so dramatic changes are coming in the way water is used in communities ten years from now. Developers should get ahead of the curve now to try to understand the implications of this change.

• The shift to a 24/7 world has implications for a master-planned community where people are active all day and night. Amenities will need to open around the clock, facilities will need to be lighted at night, and safety and security will have to be provided.

• More people will be moving back to the cities because that is where the jobs are, but some companies will be moving away from cities in order to expand.

• The industry is going to be more socially responsible, both for the sake of profits and because it is the right thing to do.

• Planned communities will be denser, becoming taller and taking different shapes and sizes. Consumer segmentation by community developers and home builders in planned communities will increase. Segmentation by builders will also increase, with more large, public, national builders entering the market, as well as small and regional builders that can do niche products.

• There will be more branded communities as customers look for trust and reliability. Life stage marketing will increase as developers better understand how to own the relationship with the customer. Because developers work hard to obtain customers, once people move into communities it only makes sense for developers to know what they are going to want five, 10, or 20 years down the road.

• Developers will have to build more flexibility into communities because when 2020 arrives, they will need to be thinking about 2030 and 2040. Developers must ask how their buildings can change over years and decades to have a longer lifespan for customers.