Rivermark

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Dahlin Group's eclectic architectural mix steals the show at this infill site in California's Silicon Valley.

March 01, 2004
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
Vital Stats
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.

Builders: Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Developer: Joint partnership of Centex Homes, Lennar Homes, Shea Homes

Architect/master planner: Dahlin Group

Community size: 1,900 units on 150 acres (100 residential)

First models opened: May 2002

Sales: 500 as of Jan. 31, 2004

Home types:
An eclectic architectural mix steals the show at Rivermark. Along with lots of color, careful land planning and a diverse product line-up, the strong home designs created by Dahlin Group make the community's high density perfectly manageable. Execution of the details - from exterior extras such as brackets, trim, window boxes and other simple but appropriate adornments to well-appointed interiors with spaces that help the small homes live large - finishes the job. During the design process, Centex, Lennar and Shea all had a vested interest in making each of the six product types and neighborhoods great - none knew which of the home types it eventually would build.

 

Raised a half-flight above street level, French doors surrounded by windows (above) let in lots of light without sacrificing privacy in the townhomes. Inside (below), that half-story boost - with the dining and living areas separated by a rail - allows light to penetrate while adding dimension and definition. The 38x90-foot lots in the Promenade neighborhood (lower left) offer full-lot, street-friendly architecture thanks to a rear carriage lane that provides garage access and eliminates curb cuts to the street.

In Silicon Valley's heyday 2 1/2 years ago, when high-tech companies were turning 20- and 30-somethings into millionaires, Centex Homes, Lennar Homes and Shea Homes got together to buy one of the sweetest pieces of property the area had to offer. An infill site in Santa Clara, Calif., that was once a 225-acre hospital campus is now home to the master-planned community Rivermark.

Opportunities

The site presented a tremendous opportunity, says Alex Barry, marketing director for Rivermark and a forward planner with Centex, which was the managing partner. Rather than fight over the same prime real estate, the three companies bought 150 of Rivermark's acres together - common in California and other land-scarce markets to help spread out cost and risk.

The builders avoid competing head to head in Rivermark because each builds two of the six for-sale product types - four single-family and two townhome - all designed by Dahlin Group.

In addition to segmenting the product, Dahlin ensured a fine-grain mix typical of older communities by putting as many as three builders and different housing types near each other rather than in builder blocks with separate entry monuments, model complexes and identities. Housing types typically break at streets, alleys or paseos - a network of pedestrian ways.

"We've tried to mix the product in so that once the builders' marketing signs are gone, it's a cohesive community that's left," says Dahlin's Mark Day, Rivermark's architect and master planner.

Obstacles

Lots of community infrastructure - a commercial center with grocery store, a K-8 school, a branch library and a park - proved to be a terrific asset to the community but left only 100 acres for the 1,900 planned residential units. The product mix, however, accommodated the average density of almost 20 units to the acre. Rivermark delivers single-family detached homes at nine to 14 units to the acre, townhomes at 16 to 20 and for-rent multifamily at up to 50 per acre.

Rivermark's most formidable challenge? Silicon's rich valley dried up just before the community opened. "High-tech companies laid off employees left and right - 500 and 800 at a time," Barry says. Builders expected deep-pocketed techies to buy three units and make huge super-pads. Instead, two and three roommates got together to buy one unit. A short-lived upturn in May and June of 2002, when sales opened, looked promising but didn't last. Barry says sales struggled for 18 months without price increases.

Still, even though it was far from the least expensive choice, Barry says Rivermark outsold all other new home communities in the south San Francisco Bay area thanks to strong community and housing design, as well as good marketing before and during the turn.

Even in the red-hot Bay area, the planning team had known a downturn could occur, Barry says. The partnership marketed Rivermark as more than just new houses in an undersupplied market.

"We positioned it as a whole new urban village that included a public library, retail, residential, parks, trails - a whole new lifestyle different from what people had seen," Barry says. "In case of a downturn, we'd be perceived as worth the higher cost and the community of choice. Even in a market where very few homes were sold, we sold."

Outcome

By all accounts, the marketing strategy kept Rivermark afloat, though not totally thriving, in a practically jobless market.

Now, Rivermark's sales are phenomenal. Shea's and Lennar's latest phases prompted camp-outs and one-day sellouts. Centex products are selling well, too.

"We've pulled out all advertising because we don't need it," says Lorie Sweeney, Lennar marketing director.

"The vision of Rivermark is alive and well," adds Sweeney, who sees no reason why the momentum won't take the community all the way to build-out, projected for late 2005.

Comments on: "Rivermark"

October 2014

This Month in Professional Builder

Products

QuickDraw keyless remote access for truck boxes offers push button access from up to 100 feet away and keyless unlocking within 5 feet of the truck box.

Features

Builders prefer traditional approaches for market research, according to a survey of Professional Builder readers. 

Email Subscriptions