Tony Ruggeri, co-president of Republic Property Group, the folks who have brought us (among other developments) Lantana, Phillips Creek Ranch and Light Farms, is gearing up for a big day at Javits Center in New York City at the Urban Land Institute’s Fall 2014 meeting on Thursday. And we could not be more proud of him! Tony, all of 33, is one of the youngest developers, and the first from Republic Property, to address the esteemed international group convening this whole week at the venerable ULI — I know half of Dallas’ commercial real estate world is there. I’ve been to a couple ULI meetings and they are fabulous — almost went to this one, in fact. Walter Isaacson is giving the closing keynote today — oh to be a fly on the wall!
Tony is going to talk “how to sell to millennials by a milennial”, something he knows a whole lot about. He and partner Jake Wagner have been building Light Farms, one of the country’s most unique family-oriented developments: a 908-acre master-planned community with schools in the acclaimed Prosper Independent School District, Light Farms offers green living and so many amenities to attract millennials — robust hike and bike trails and programs, green living, communing with neighbors — sales of $200,000 plus homes have boiled over. Truly, Light Farms has become a standard for millennial living in North Texas. Like one developer told me, millennials are making a bee-line from Uptown to Light Farms as soon as they have a baby.
Republic Property group was selected as one of three outstanding developers focusing on selling to millennials to host a panel session today titled Best New Communities 2014. Tony’s been asked to share details and numbers regarding
- Design, development, amenity, marketing, financing, and partnership strategies that led to the successful launch of the developments
- How these new MPCs (master planned communities) are being positioned vis-a-vis existing ones
- What are the new ingredients to creating “lifestyle” in 2014 and beyond
- How developers approach making money in the large scale development business post the recession era.
Other panelists include Laura Cole, Vice President, Willowsford LLC, Ashburn, VA (Willowsford, Loudoun County, VA) and, Tom Martin, Vice President, Five Point Communities, Aliso Viejo, CA (Great Park, Irvine, CA). I so wanted to be there to hear Tony, but could not, but we are wishing him all kinds of luck from home and hope to have his presentation up in the next couple weeks.
I spoke with Tony several weeks ago when I first knew he would be presenting at the ULI . He couldn’t give away the whole talk, but said that a large percentage of his work at Light Farms has been focused on innovation and technology, pretty unique for a developer. For example, creating interactive site plans that engage homebuyers to choose parameters. Buyers can scroll a mouse over a lot, spec home photos show up, and more information comes with a click of the mouse.
“Technology innovation is where we are headed, as developers,” he said, ” but how do you fuse a digital community with an actual live community?”
He told me some interesting things about milennials: they shun cars, mostly because they were driven everywhere by their parents. They like history, and look to their grandparents for a sense of nostalgia. They want to move and walk more, and live locally; no more golf course communities. They want authenticity: locally owned shops, community gardens. And no duh: they live on the internet. I challenge you to find a buyer who doesn’t go house hunting on on line, said Tony.
“The millennial generation will be the largest workforce surge in the history of our country,” he told me. “The 35 to 44 year old buyer is the heart of the market.”
And the ULI world will hear all about it from this Dallas real estate executive, in just a few hours.