Developers Hope Community Atmosphere Attracts Buyers

  • Marin Independent Journal
  • January 24, 1999
  • Maura Thurman

It's not just the house. It's the concept.

That's what developers of Hamilton Field will begin marketing in earnest after the official grand opening this spring of Marin's largest-ever building project.

Rather than touting the array of 950 new homes in sought-after Marin, developers have worked to create a small-town image.

Developers say the concept grew from the history of the former Air Force base, the ideas of people opposed to previous plans, and a long-term economic outlook.

"Small towns in Marin are far more valuable than subdivisions in Novato," said Peter Palmisano of Pacific Union Development, one of the original partners in the development.

One key to the image has been renovation of a set of 1930s Spanish-style buildings for a town center, including the movie theater that became the centerpiece of the New Hamilton logo.

Signs along the approach to the complex take a nostalgic spin by following the pattern of old Burma Shave roadside ads to deliver a sequential message: "Hamilton is a small town/No other can top/the Hamilton Info Center/Should be your first stop."

Inside the center, visitors learn how they can "live, work, play and belong" in the new town. The mantra refers to the project's inclusion of offices, recreation facilities and public space as well as homes.

Marketers say the image resonates with home-seekers.

Of the first 100 buyers, known as the "Founding Families," 70 came from San Rafael and Novato, Palmisano said.

And the partnership fostered the small-town theme with a New Hamilton newsletter, a Christmas party, and plans for a charity run and street performers at the grand opening event.

"Most people who buy a new home look first at the house," Palmisano said. "The bottom line here is we want to make them look at the community first."