New Home Development in Menlo Park: Playborhood or Not?

Many people I’ve spoken to about the dearth of blocks with kids playing in our area have blamed the lack of new home developments.

Here's Morgan Lane's encouraging marketing copy on the header of their web site.  Can this new home development live up to this hype?

The argument goes like this: “Established neighborhoods” have mostly longtime residents. Proposition 13 exacerbates this problem because it provides a strong incentive for longtime residents to stick around, so very new residents move in. New developments, on the other hand, get lots of families with kids because they tend to be the ones buying new homes. In fact, when South Palo Alto boomed in the 1950s with, among other homes, 3,000 new Eichlers, twelve new elementary schools were built to accommodate all the students. In fact, when I checked out the home for sale in South Palo Alto at 470 Carolina Lane off Wilkie Way, an elderly neighbor told me that there were no young children there now, but there were 35 between 0 and 5 years old on Carolina Lane back in the 1950s.

So, there’s a new home development of 56 homes in Menlo Park on Linfield between El Camino and Middlefield called “Morgan Lane,” being developed by Taylor Woodrow. Will it be a Playborhood like all those South Palo developments were back in the 1950s?

View Larger Map

I was especially intrigued by the marketing text on the header of the Morgan Lane web site shown in the image at the top of the page.

I visited the Morgan Lane site last week and met with its Sales Manager, Joyce Boury. From a mainstream real estate perspective, there’s a lot to like about these new homes. They’re solid and well-laid out. They have nice details. They’re fairly attractive.

However, from the Playborhood perspective – i.e. the perspective of kid play potential – my verdict is decidedly mixed. Below are the Playborhood pros and cons of Morgan Lane. Note that there are two clusters of houses, one on each side of Linfield.

Playborhood Pros

  • This is a new housing development.
  • The houses on the outer perimeter of each cluster have their driveways on the surrounding streets, so car traffic on the interior streets is lessened.
  • Each cluster has a green courtyard with a play structure.
  • The developer will add trees and an island to Linfield to slow down traffic and connect the two clusters.

Playborhood Cons

  • The yards are very small.
  • The green courtyards inside each cluster are *very* small, and have no open playing fields.
  • Their marketing and sales efforts are not well-targeted at young families. I’ve concluded this for the following reasons:
    • I gathered from Sales Manager Boury that young families are not their prime target, despite the copy on their web site header. She told me that they’re attracting all ages of buyers, from empty nesters to young families, and she seemed to have a better understanding of and connection to empty nesters.
    • The web site is very sparse, and was created by a marketing company that seems to be quite disconnected from Boury and her company, Taylor Woodrow. If you’re marketing to new families, you need to have strong web marketing.

I had my greatest enthusiasm for Morgan Lane when I heard about it and visited the web site to read that header. The visit was, by and large, a disappointment. Taylor Woodrow seems to be cramming as much housing square footage as it can into the space it has, and of course, kids need outdoor space to play. Besides the web site header, the marketing and sales effort doesn’t do a good job of reaching young families. This is all unfortunate, because new housing developments in Menlo Park are so rare.

So, Morgan Lane may well become a Playborhood merely because it’s a new development, but developer Taylor Woodrow isn’t doing much to encourage this.

Bookmark the permalink of this post.

Comments are closed.