by Jane Paige
Flowers Plantation and Briar Chapel are some of the Triangle’s most exciting communities. Imagine coming home every day to a resort lifestyle of pools, spas and parks. Walking and biking trails wind through woods to clubhouses with exercise classes for all. And gourmet restaurants are just a short stroll down the street. This special way of life is being captured at numerous planned communities across the entire Triangle area. From Chapel Hill to Clayton, master-planned developments are offering a unique lifestyle to families of all ages. It is true resort living without ever having to leave home.
Two of the largest award-winning planned communities in the region are Briar Chapel, located south of Chapel Hill off US 15-501, and Flowers Plantation, near Clayton off NC 42 in Johnston County. The hallmark of both planned mixed-use communities is offering the unique benefits of living in a large area, but with a hometown feeling. These communities – Briar Chapel with 1,600 acres and Flowers Plantation with 3,000 acres – focus on creating smaller neighborhoods surrounded by winding trails, family parks and large clubhouses with pools. Shopping centers are clustered together with restaurants, professional offices and grocery stores.
Both Flowers Plantation and Briar Chapel are situated near the major urban centers of the Triangle – Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Research Triangle Park. But both enjoy the luxury of being outside of the urban hustle and bustle. It is a lifestyle that focuses on convenience, relaxation and, most often, just plain fun. Erin Messier and her family moved to Briar Chapel five years ago. The community reminds them of their quaint hometowns in New Hampshire.
“Once we get home at night and on the weekends, we really never have to leave the community. Everything we want and need is right here,” says Messier, who also works in the neighborhood. “It is a perfect lifestyle for my entire family, with something for everyone.”
What is a Master Planned Community?
Master-planned communities got their start nationwide in the 1960s, clustering homes together on often smaller lots with shared public green spaces in large developments. Sidewalks and walking trails connect the communities’ amenities. Dues are paid to homeowners associations to help maintain common areas. And covenants guide and help maintain the overall character and architecture of the area. While the basic concepts have remained the same through the decades, today’s master-planned communities have evolved into resorts all their own. Open green spaces and wooded areas are abundant while homes are clustered in numerous neighborhoods anchored by clubhouses, schools and commercial growth.
Numerous amenities are the lifestyle trademark in today’s planned communities. Both Flowers Plantation and Briar Chapel are no exception, offering abundant activities for all family members. Developed by Rebecca Flowers on more than 3,000 acres just East of Raleigh, Flowers Plantation offers more than 30 neighborhoods, over 10 miles of walking trails and two elementary schools on land Flowers donated to the county. When complete, the development will total nearly 7,800 lots with home prices ranging from $150,000 to over $800,000. While single-family homes are the focus of the large community, it also includes townhomes, cottages and two age 55-plus active adult communities. Both custom and national builders are making their mark. Some 2,800 homes are complete today.
“The original plan with Flowers Plantation was to build a living destination in Johnston County,” says Reid Stephenson, CEO of Flowers Plantation. “We feel we certainly have achieved that and are continuing to grow and develop all the time.”
The Club at Flowers Plantation
A centerpiece of the community is The Club that features a fitness center, indoor pool, spa and massage service, café and bar. Retail/commercial areas compliment Flowers Plantation with major grocery stores and other national retailers at Flowers Crossroads. A traditional country store – Percy Flowers Store named for Ms. Flowers’ father – offers a special look at the past when cotton and tobacco covered the fields. On the other side of the Triangle region is Briar Chapel, located between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro in Chatham County. The developer is Newland Communities, the largest private developer of planned residential and urban mixed-use communities in the country.
Opening in 2008, Briar Chapel now has 1,300 homes with a projected total of 2,500. Homes offer flexible floor plans from 1,400- to 5,000+ square feet at prices from $200,000 to more than $900,000. Nine builders offer single-family detached homes, homes for ages 55-plus and custom homes. It is designed to appeal to first-time homebuyers, move-up buyers and empty-nesters as well as buyers seeking an age-qualified offering.
“We offer an appealing lifestyle that is easy, relaxing and convenient all in one community,” says Shannon McSwiney, Newland’s director of marketing for the Carolinas region. “It is a unique area that reflects the vibrant arts and nature of the region.”
The Importance of Green Space
Focusing on “green” living, Briar Chapel helps set the tone with a mile-plus long, winding, tree-lined road into the development. Twenty-five miles of hiking and biking trails and 12 community parks are available as well as a community garden. The Briar Club is LEED Silver certified and homebuilders are required to comply with stringent National Association of Home Builders Green program standards, McSwiney says. Briar Chapel also has partnered with the Chatham County Arts Council and the local schools to promote arts awareness and education. Various art installations highlight the community, including the new Constellation Park with boulders shaping the various planets.
The five-acre Great Meadow Park links to many neighborhoods by trails. Community-wide activities in the park include outdoor movies, concerts, youth and adult triathlons and the 10th annual Pepper Festival this fall. Other outdoor activities include tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and even a dog park.
Clustered at the entrance to Briar Chapel at US 15-501 is Veranda, a retail and commercial area with restaurants, professional offices and a private pre-school. More development is planned along the roadway. Both Flowers Plantation and Briar Chapel communities are recipients of numerous awards over the years. Flowers Plantation was awarded North Carolina’s Community of the Year in 2013 and 2014 by the North Carolina Home Builders Association. Briar Chapel has been named one of the top 50 best master-planned communities in the country.
But, the real kudos come from the residents who decide to call these master-planned communities “home” each and every day. From pools to hiking trails to parks, communities all over the Triangle offer residents a resort lifestyle without ever having to pack their bags.