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Photo: Jason Henry /
This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Pro Builder.

From little things, big things grow: Trumark's co-founders, Gregg Nelson (left) and Mike Maples, met at business school and initially started entitling and selling lots together. The company now has four divisions. (Photo: Jason Henry /

A cursory look at 2018 Builder of the Year Trumark Companies’ portfolio for the last few years reveals a stunning series of successes: Wallis Ranch, a 184-acre master planned community in San Francisco’s East Bay developed by Trumark Communities, features 806 new homes in eight neighborhoods with more than 50 percent of its area devoted to green space. At its heart is Kindred House, a resort-style indoor/outdoor amenity of more than 17,000 square feet, offering a wide array of activities, with planned events and classes as well as spaces for fitness, fun, meetings, dining, and entertainment. Wallis Ranch was awarded the Master Planned Community of the Year award from both PCBC’s Gold Nugget Awards and NAHB’s National Sales & Marketing Awards programs.

Trumark Urban’s The Pacific is a 76-unit condominium featuring townhome-style residences, flats, and penthouses in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. The first newly constructed residential development in the area in decades, The Pacific is an adaptive reuse, LEED Gold–certified project, and was sold using virtual reality, enabling homebuyers to view its customizable units as fully designed homes. The project set records for high prices in the city and was named Multi-Family Community of the Year by the Gold Nugget Awards.

SL70, from Trumark Homes, is a community of 70 single-family homes with three levels of living space and rooftop terraces on 2.3 acres in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. The project took advantage of the city’s Small Lot Ordinance to design two- and three-bedroom detached homes with up to 1,800 square feet of living space, two-car garages, and no need for HOA dues. With a great location and high design, the homes quickly sold out and earned top awards from the NAHB’s Nationals: A Gold award for Detached Community of the Year and Gold for Best Architectural Design of a Single-Family Home Under 2,000 Square Feet.

But Trumark’s co-founders didn’t start out building award-winning homes and communities. While the firm celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, their partnership goes back even further. Mike Maples and Gregg Nelson met when both were attending San Jose State and leading church youth groups. They later moved with their families to the East Bay, with plans to start a church. As a secondary endeavor, they each bought some land with the intent of building homes over time. But Mike’s lot turned out to be two lots and they decided to build on both of them; however, they were offered more money for the lots than they thought they were worth, so they sold them.

Each time they bought lots with plans to build, the pair found that by the time they got approvals from the local government, someone else offered to buy the land at a better price. They eventually started building small subdivisions and custom homes, but the recession in the ’90s halted that line of work. So they stepped away from building homes and went back to buying, entitling, and selling land to builders.

The partners returned to building in 2008 with Trumark Homes, which focuses on single-family, townhomes, and flats—with more than 2,200 completed so far. But they didn’t stop there. In 2011, they launched Trumark Urban, building luxury multifamily projects in San Francisco and Los Angeles, some 25 stories tall. Then came Trumark Communities, established in 2013, to entitle, acquire, develop, and manage master planned communities and sell land to builders. It currently has more than 3,100 lots in California representing over $500 million in projected revenue in its pipeline.

The Trumark Companies represent a new, diversified model for home building; one that is able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, deliver homes and communities that break the traditional mold, and perhaps lessen the cyclical nature of the business. We look forward to seeing what Trumark does next.