Bob and Ann Smith were driving in Corcoran and saw a sign about homesites for sale in a development named Bellwether.

New housing sprouting up from farm fields was hardly unusual, but this project sparked some excitement.

"When we heard that Del Webb was coming to Minnesota, the lights went on," said Bob. "They do a first-class job."

The couple were familiar with Del Webb, developer of popular active-adult retirement communities in Sun Belt states since its 1960 launch in Sun City, Ariz. As snowbirds, the Smiths had rented a Del Webb villa in Arizona a few years earlier.

Corcoran's Del Webb 55-plus housing community, being built by Pulte Homes of Minnesota, is the state's first.

The 398 single-level detached houses maintained by an association will spread across 225 acres and be built over several phases and over several years.

The Del Webb brand is known for deluxe resort-style features, such as pickleball courts, fitness centers, swimming pools and social clubs.

Bellwether models, starting at $346,990, will be open during the Parade of Homes, Sept. 7-29.

Lifestyle director and more

The Smiths are retired, and their adult children have moved out. They planned to sell their Colonial-style house in Bloomington and downsize to a simpler low-maintenance lifestyle, with no yard work.

After touring condo high-rises, and riding elevators, they realized that "one-level living really appealed to us," said Ann. They inquired about buying into Bellwether, which was close to their son's home and shopping in Maple Grove.

In July, the Smiths picked out their specific homesite for its backyard southern exposure.

The backhoe excavators will fire up this month when Pulte breaks ground for the first phase of 31 houses. The couple will move into their residence in March 2020.

They chose a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-level floor plan, upgraded with a sunroom, for a total of 2,096 square feet.

"When we lived in Bloomington, I always wanted a sunroom," said Bob. "After 42 years, it's time to get one."

The Smiths picked out finishes, wall colors, hardware and other materials to suit their taste inside the updated traditional Craftsman.

For example, the model has quartz for the counter and island tops, while the Smiths chose a granite slab for their kitchen island.

The "gathering room," which encompasses the living room, dining and kitchen, is open and airy, thanks to oversized double-hung windows and 9-foot-high ceilings.

The floor plan also boasts today's top-of-the list features, from a multifunctional mudroom to an owners' suite with a walk-in closet, double sinks and spacious tiled shower.

"All the natural light and open spaces make a difference," said Jamie Tharp, division president of Minnesota Pulte Group. "Less square footage doesn't mean it feels smaller and darker."

The wide range of activities and social clubs — from cooking to crafts — catering to the retirement lifestyle, also were a big draw for the Smiths.

An 11,500-square-foot clubhouse will open this summer, offering an indoor and outdoor pool, spa and fitness center with spin classes. The grounds will be dotted with pickleball and bocce ball courts.

Bob is already a pickleball player, but Ann is not sure yet what hobbies or activities she'll pursue.

"It's a good place for her to find out what she likes," said Bob.

Bellwether even has a "lifestyle director" on site to help residents get connected and stay busy, said Tharp. "It's geared for people in the same stage of life. Their kids have left, and they have time to join clubs and socialize."

This style of housing community also allows retirees to stay connected — and in town.

"Residents can be close to their children, grandkids, churches and communities," said P.J. Cushing, marketing manager of Minnesota Pulte Group. "And have the active adult amenities."

There are plenty of villa- and patio-style association-maintained homes, many targeted at the 55-plus age group, to tour on the Parade this fall.

Baby boomers make up a big part of this growing housing market as more builders try to cater to their needs, said Katie Elfstrom, communications director for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, which presents the Parade of Homes.

"This trend will continue as builders find creative ways to inspire boomers to sell their larger homes and make the leap into downsizing," she said.

@LyUnderwood