Building a ‘Mayberry’

By Connor Dziawura

Robson Communities is always looking to improve its model to satisfy what the company’s Brian Boylan sees is a growing aging population.

Founded in 1972, the builder of master-planned retirement communities for active adults has expanded its reaches throughout Arizona and even into Texas over the past nearly five decades, attracting tens of thousands of residents and garnering numerous accolades along the way.

“There’s no rock unturned of what we’re looking to try to do better—and be better than the next,” explains Boylan, Robson’s senior vice president of sales. He says the company even takes resident input into mind as it progresses.

Robson Communities was recently named Builder of the Year for the 55-and-older market at the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

Robson raked up numerous honors at the show, also including 19 gold or silver recognitions for some of its individual model homes, communal spaces, lifestyle programs, marketing campaigns and more.

Boylan calls reception of the awards part of a “continuing effort.” NAHB has regularly honored Robson since at least 1993, according to the builder’s website, which also lists a plethora of commendations from other organizations.

“We offer these big communities that have all sorts of amenities and activities for you, and the home is just a vehicle to get there,” Boylan says.

As it has expanded over the past five decades, Robson has aimed to make its residents’ “golden years” the best they can be, with communities such as PebbleCreek in Goodyear; Robson Ranch Arizona in Eloy; The Preserve, Quail Creek, SaddleBrooke and SaddleBrooke Ranch in the Tucson area; and Robson Ranch Texas in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. A Sun Lakes community—Robson’s “flagship” one—is sold out of new homes.

“We want to extend your happiness and your life,” Boylan says. “People come to us and they’ve been working their whole lives, they may not have been in shape, they may not have done ‘this,’ and we offer all sorts of classes and activities that they can just come and extend their life and live life happily, luxuriously, whatever you want, at a given price. It’s affordable and it’s not too expensive for everybody.”

Depending on location and floor plan, homes range from the $200,000s to upward of $1 million.

“(If) you’re a school teacher and you live right across the street from a CEO, we don’t care. They’re just here to have a great lifestyle,” Boylan adds. “Everybody’s got a common denominator, and we’re here to have fun and enjoy the rest of our life.”

Amenities, which can vary by location, include golf courses and other sports facilities, clubhouses, creative arts centers, fitness centers, pools and restaurants.

“Each community takes on its own agenda, once we’re in there, of what’s happening,” Boylan says, adding that each is designed to pair with the surrounding area.

This can come in the form of actual design—some feature desert trails, while others incorporate traditional sidewalks—or even in terms of programming. Activities—in realms including fitness/wellness, performing arts and creative arts—are paramount to Robson. A community such as Quail Creek, for example, implements bird watching due to its close proximity to Madera Canyon, according to Boylan.

“It just depends on where we’re at,” he says.

Nevertheless, Robson sets out on a mission to build all its communities with a “luxury lifestyle” in mind. Boylan likens it to The Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, or even “a cruise ship on land,” but with minimal-yet-inclusive HOA fees. Homes are built to be energy efficient, and a “sense of community” is fostered between neighbors, Boylan feels.

“What we like to do and tout is we know you may not be coming from the metro area where you know everybody, or you’re coming from Washington, or you’re coming from Florida, you’re coming from somewhere,” he says. “Everybody here is from somewhere else, too, and they’re out to look and meet other people. They’re not using the same doctors they have for 30 years; they’re not using the banker or whatever.

“It’s almost like we are building a Mayberry,” he adds with a laugh. “We’re not going back in time, but it’s just a friendly place where you don’t lock your front door, you walk outside, and you wave to somebody when you get your mail. I mean, it’s pretty spectacular to watch it happen.”

Looking forward, Boylan says Robson could have a number of years of development left at any given community in its canon. When the builder develops a project, it sets out on a 20- to 40-year journey, he explains.

“Even PebbleCreek, which started in ’94, we’ve probably got seven years left there. Casa Grande (Robson Ranch Arizona), we may have 20 to 30 years left there. We’re looking at new dirt in Texas right now, as to do a whole ’nother development in North Texas. And, in fact, we were out there (in January) looking at land,” he explains.

“These big master plans, we’re kind of the last guys to do them as big as we do. And, I mean, we have probably 50, 60, 70 years of inventory currently, right now, and are still looking for more. It’s crazy. And then there’s a succession plan with the family. We continue to be privately owned. That’s the only way we plan to move forward, too.”

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