The saying "what's old is new again" could become an ongoing mantra for established subdivisions in the Richmond area looking for ways to compete with their newer, trendier neighbors.
Take 38-year-old Brandermill in Chesterfield, which refuses to step aside as newer developments continue to spring up around the 2,800-acre neighborhood. Named "The Best Planned Community in America" in 1977 by the National association of Homebuilders and Better Homes & Gardens magazine, Brandermill is constantly being spruced up.
In the last couple of years, the Brandermill Community Association has completed several projects to make the neighborhood more aesthetically pleasing. "We implemented a new mailbox design with dark-green posts and black mailboxes," says Jane Pritz, community manager for the association. "We also painted the posts that hold stop signs and street signs dark green. We are now in the process of redoing our directional signs."
Brandermill also added the tagline "waterfront community" to some of its entrance signs as a nod to its amenities related to Swift Creek Reservoir. Other improvements have included adding a stone-wall feature to the signs for each of the community's neighborhoods and also a pavilion for one of the park areas. This past spring, the association also enhanced the landscaping at the main entrances to the community. "It's important to maintain property values and draw people to Brandermill to live," Pritz says.
She believes Brandermill offers unique amenities, many of which aren't found in newer developments. "We have miles of bike trails, a lake, a golf course, three swimming pools and a tennis facility," she says. "Unlike newer communities where a lot of the trees have been taken down, people like the wooded, established feel here."
Brandermill's neighbor, Woodlake, established in 1983, started discussions about updating its facilities and the community about 10 years ago. "The market was gearing up in this area of Chesterfield, and we talked about the need to keep up with the growth around us," says Julie Joyner, community manager of the Woodlake Community Association. "It's hard for us to compete with newer neighborhoods because they offer features such as two-car garages and maintenance-free siding that weren't in style at the time Woodlake was developed. People in the market for a new home don't always want to upgrade a home, they want all the modern amenities when they buy. Our houses are older, so we want to make sure we are selling the overall neighborhood concept."
That concept includes 12 miles of bike trails, 15 playgrounds, a $1 million pavilion and amphitheater facility, canoe rentals on Swift Creek Reservoir, and a swim-and-racquet club. "The neighborhood purchased the club from the original developers last year," Joyner says. "Membership is optional."
In 2003, with an eye toward the future, Woodlake completed a $1 million renovation of its waterfront pavilion. Other improvements include renovating the landscape and entrances. "Our signage was becoming dated," Joyner says. "We worked on getting a design plan and started our renovation process last year."
Woodlake will also be adding to its network of bike trails, building another path to connect some of the neighborhoods on the backside of the development with the water. "We are constantly re-evaluating and checking to see where we are and how we can plan ahead to make sure residents get the most value if they sell and the best quality of life," Joyner says.
Another 30-year neighborhood veteran is the mixed-use Innsbrook community in Henrico, which includes both residential housing and commercial space. Representatives began the process of looking at the future in 2009, trying to decide exactly what it wanted to be. "We have a vision of Innsbrook that is much more an urban community than a suburban office park," says Paul Kreckman, vice president of Highwoods Properties Inc. and president of the Innsbrook Owners Association.
The updated development will put a greater emphasis on its residential communities by featuring an urban street grid, walkable, mixed-use districts, parking decks and a multistory building for urban living, as well as a central park system. "One of the principles we have established is the importance of the environment with the lake system," Kreckman says. "We are going to treat the lake and lake edge as more of a central park rather than landscaping."
Over at Wyndham in Henrico, landscaping is a major focus for the 22-year-old neighborhood. "It's our largest expense," says Tom Hall, site manager for the Wyndham Foundation, a homeowner's association. "We have won awards for our landscaping. We spend about $50,000 a year to replace or replenish existing shrubs."
The community has also replaced the furniture and carpet in its clubhouse and resurfaced its tennis courts. An additional tennis court and swimming pool also have been approved for development. "They have been delayed by the economy, but we hope to expand," Hall says.
As an effort to go green, LED lights have been installed throughout the property, including the 42 neighborhood signs that are illuminated at night, producing a reduction in energy use.
Hall believes that homeowners like established neighborhoods because they have an experienced management team and neighborhood group. "People are attracted to the neighborhood because of the amenities and the fact that the homeowner's association has an established track record."