In real estate developments across the globe, the definition of “amenities” is changing. No longer solely defined as activities and lifestyle features, amenities now encompass all elements that serve to enhance a location’s sense of place, organize its style, and add value through enrichment of experience. For several decades, golf has been used as an identity of manicured beauty, brand exclusivity, and as a fabric for social connectivity. This paradigm is changing, as nature-based amenities are proving equally capable of providing visual interest, promoting community belonging, supporting connectivity to the outdoors, and generating return on investment. Parks, gardens, orchards, nature preserves, and the like can provide a powerful unifying theme that binds together the magic of open space, site topography, vegetation, and landform into a cohesive, thoughtfully planned amenity offering.

According to research conducted by American Lives, Inc., more than 75% of all home buyers rate natural open space as either “essential” or “very important” for their places of residence. Among specific community features that were ranked in the study, a neighborhood design that offered a quiet atmosphere and low traffic was #1, while the inclusion of walking and bicycling paths ranked 3rd. In contrast, results from a similar study in the 1980’s differed greatly where home buyers listed tennis courts, swimming pools, and golf courses as their top “must-haves.”

Consumers are increasingly putting higher premiums on their interaction with the environment and it shows in their buying preferences. Growing demand for open space, trails, and greenway corridors is fueled by renewed interest in preservation of the environment, health consciousness, convenient access to recreation, and enjoyment of the outdoors. What were previously considered modest landscape elements have become prime attractions and key market influencers. The worth buyers place in these amenities is reflected by increased real estate values and improved marketability for developments that feature connected open space as a primary amenity.

In 1937, Gertrude Stein famously wrote, “There is no there there,” a quotation which is now used to describe sprawling places that lack vibrancy, pedestrian scale, and connectivity to place and history. Having a “there” is particularly critical to overall appeal, quality of life, and a clear sense of place. People tend to gravitate to and remain in livable communities that incorporate and establish these values – making it is easier to attract new residents, jobs, and build commerce. Carefully crafted development plans, codes, and design standards help ensure that developments fit in and positively contribute to a common vision. With thoughtfully planned and integrated natural open space, communities can achieve a “there there” in a way that extends for generations.

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Drawing inspiration from the city’s marine-centric past, redevelopment efforts are catalyzing economic expansion – bringing hundreds and eventually thousands of jobs to local residents, as well as millions in property tax revenues. The 850-acre Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) envisions over $600 million in improvements including a working waterfront, mixed-use area with entertainment, hotel, office, residential, city park with amphitheater, walkways, and neighborhood greenspace.

The first implementation project is a transformation to the Riviera Beach Marina. The enhanced anchor features a new two-story event center, landscaped surge wall that unifies upper and lower promenades, a central fountain, marina facility upgrades, and a redesigned Bicentennial park, along with new commercial and retail space. The park offers event space, picnic areas, a lighted children’s splash park, shade sails, and concessions stand. Future plans include a waterfront restaurant row as well as a year-round public market and ample parking to accommodate increased visitation. The entire project will be built out over 10 years.

As part of a multi-disciplinary team, EDSA participated in redevelopment strategies to bring the master plan to fruition as well as detailed design and construction observation services for the Marina Village along with a wayfinding system and signage prototypes. Seeking LEED certification, the design incorporates sustainability measures such as permeable pavers and drought tolerant planting to eliminate traditional drainage structures and increase cost savings.

We are happy to announce that EDSA Principal, Richard D. Centolella, has been inducted into the esteemed ASLA Council of Fellows for his significant contributions to the profession of landscape architecture and betterment of contemporary society through his implemented designs.

Since joining EDSA in 1985, Centolella has acquired a memorable portfolio of over 300 projects that have shaped the social, economic, and environmental well-being of people and place. Highlighted projects included Castiglion del Bosco, where Centolella led the preservation and restoration of the property which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Atlantis Paradise Island, where he contributed significantly to the design and implementation of the resort destination which directly led to an increase in GDP for the Bahamas and its stability in the tourism industry; and the Opera House Downtown Dubai, where his leadership and design vision led to the first multi-format performing arts venue and Dubai’s largest green space and civic area to date. To see more, visit our Facebook page.