Does Your Home Match Your Lifestyle?


Why go to all the trouble of being a movie star, vineyard owner, golf pro or naturalist, when you can just live like one -- in a spanking new high-rise or community where you have tons of amenities and are surrounded by neighbors just like you?

Whether you are an urban sophisticate, a foodie boomer or a nature-loving family, there is a community that fits your lifestyle to a tee.

At least, that's the concept that real estate developers have been increasingly hawking over the past few years. These lifestyle residences may be urban or suburban, high-end or middle class, and targeted at anyone from the young and hip to "active adults" (you know, empty nesters who might or might not be retired and are not ready to call themselves seniors). There's actually a consulting firm in Chattanooga, TN, whose business is helping developers "define lifestyles and market communities."

Here's a look at some of the latest lifestyle options -- and a prediction for the next housing trend.
Urban Singles
One of the latest entrants to target young sophisticates is 436 West 20th Street. Located in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, the brick building (pictured) is a restored 10,000-square-foot, 19th century mansion that's been broken up into long and short-term rental apartments. Some of the amenities, according to marketing materials, include: "regular delivery of Organic Avenue's signature juices, purified water and vegetable drinks, daily private Jivamukti Yoga sessions and complimentary consultations with top wine consultant Janine Lettieri," wine director at the oh-so-cool Waverly Inn. Residents can live their healthful urban lifestyles in digs that feature rooftop gardens, 17-foot-ceilings, Baccarat chandeliers and working fireplaces. If that's not enough, there's a "house butler" who delivers mail, makes dinner reservations, books massages (in case you strain something doing yoga) and lights your fireplace for you.

It's a mixture of fitness and pampering that movie stars take for granted and not surprisingly it's priced accordingly. An 1,800-square foot second-floor pad is $20,000 a month.

A little north and west, and slightly more down to earth price-wise, is Ohm, a high-rise haven for young professionals who wish they'd done a stint on the Real World after college instead of buckling down and getting real jobs. (although they need those banking jobs to afford this place). The building has gotten attention lately for staging rock concerts in its lobby, in partnership with the Knitting Factory, a longtime mainstay on the NY indie music scene.

But put aside the possibility of clubbing without leaving your building and it's still quite self-consciously cool. The lobby and a separate lounge offer clusters of modern furniture, where cliques of neighbors will presumably hang out and chill. The lounge has big-screen TVs, billiards and a giant fireplace while a separate "retro" arcade offers "every video game you will ever want to play." Bike storage and common-area wifi round out the hipster offerings while a shuttle service helps residents get to work. With rents starting at $1,880 for a studio and topping out at $3,630 for a two-bedroom, it's affordable by white-collar New York standards.

Earthy Families
Venture beyond New York and the offerings are much more down to earth, literally. Power Ranch is a solidly middle class planned community for "active families" in Gilbert, AZ. Tree-lined neighborhoods are built around parks and connected by trails for running or biking. Playgrounds and common barbecue areas abound to encourage community activities and cultivate a "hometown-rural feeling," while pools, soccer fields and stocked fishing lakes keep residents moving.

In Lake Tahoe, the same developers offer Martis Camp, which is suppose to be just that -- a camp. There's golfing on a posh course during the summer, private access to a public ski mountain in winter, a family "barn" that serves as a community center with bowling, movies, basketball and an art loft, and a rustic library cottage where local book clubs can gather. There's even a "folk school" that holds classes in fly fishing, quilting and photography. The houses are, appropriately modern-rustic with lots of glass and weathered wood. If you're moving to Tahoe to get out of the city and back to nature, you can feel like a regular Grizzly Adams here -- if Adams shopped at Patagonia and had an occasional shave.

Gourmet Boomers
For empty nesters, Shea Homes is offering its themed Trilogy developments, including the Vineyards community outside of San Francisco. Cooking classes, Champagne happy hours and periodic winemaker dinners remind residents they're nestled in California wine country. A walk among the grape vines planted by the developers provides foodies aged 50+ a taste of that idyllic vineyard lifestyle without their having to be bothered with actual farming or making wine.

The company's communities in the Southwest, meanwhile, are built around golf, with fairways designed by big-name golf course architects and clubhouses that would make some resort owners envious.

Joining the Hive
Developers aren't the only ones paying attention to this trend; sociologists have been studying it as well. These lifestyle developments may represent the next stage of hiving -- the term that the sociological research firm Yankelovich came up with a few years ago. Instead of using our homes to hide from the world -- you know, cocooning -- we want to them to be portals to a larger community, the firm explains. In the late 1990s and early part of this decade, homeowners began trading in their remote cul de sacs for places like like Reston, VA, where a (way-too-clean and orderly and somewhat artificial, some might say) town center offers the opportunity to walk to restaurants, movies and shops, passing neighbors along the way and feeling generally Mr. Rogers-ish about life.

It seems it's not enough to merely be around other people anymore. For developers, the next logical step seems to be helping people be around people who are just like them -- bees want to hive with other bees, not with butterflies and crickets, the thinking goes.

Whether you're a club-hopping singleton, an outdoorsy family or wine-drinking, golf playing boomer, you can know your neighbors like the exact same things. It makes it easier to organize picture-perfect barbecues, wine parties or vegetarian brunch parties and less likely that you'll irritate your neighbors. And it no doubt makes it easier to sell homes.

But we're ready to go out on a limb here and predict the next big sociological shift that developers will jump on: multi-lifestyle communities. You know, for when you're tired of everyone looking and acting just like you.

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