Much of Orange County’s home-product innovation is driven by the need to achieve yield and density as well as attainability, creating the ideal environment for innovative ideas that are emulated by other areas of the country, Tom Martin, SVP of community development for Newport Pacific Land Co. (NPLC), tells SoCal Real Estate. The veteran industry professional recently joined the firm.
Martin has a background with such industry giants as Lennar and Fivepoint Communities and was involved in the Great Park Neighborhoods and Coto de Caza in Orange County, as well as The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County.
NPLC describes itself as a developer of residential and mixed-use communities that honors and appreciates both the land and the future residents that their developments will serve. While most of the firm’s activity is based outside of Orange County, NLPC is based in Newport Beach, California. We caught up with him to discuss his new role, how he views the Orange County residential market, and how mixed-use developers can distinguish themselves from the pack.
SoCal Real Estate: What do you find most interesting about your new role?
Martin: I can truly make a difference in how our communities throughout the Western U.S. will be place made. These are products that allow for attainability and something for everybody. Orange County is the hotbed of product innovation in the country, and a lot of it is the need to achieve yield, but also to provide relative attainability. I’m highly involved with Orange County architects, and now what I want to do is sprinkle them throughout new markets in the West and take my experience here into other markets that are hot.
How did Orange County come to achieve this status in home-product innovation?
Land prices are so high that the only way to create attainability is to get higher yield with those products. My work has been in getting detached products into almost 15 units to an acre and looking at how you can get even higher densities than that with one-car garages and lifts and consolidated garages, The only way to achieve any kind of true attainability for Millennials and first-time buyers is to create a situation where attached product is 25 to 30 units to the acre. There have been a lot of breakthroughs in attached product that allow one-bedrooms to be priced to be attainable for Millennials and first-time buyers.
What are the challenges of developing residential and mixed-use properties in Southern California that honor and appreciate the land and future residents?
I think the key is — again, from an attainability standpoint — that Millennials and first-time buyers will give up space for place. You need to develop really fun and cool places that are walkable and bikeable. These are organic places — when planning, these become very prescribed, but from the standpoint of commercial, residential and open space, they need to be created into cohesive and organic space. They cannot be prescribed. They may look good on paper, but not be easy to implement.
As mixed-use properties become more popular, how can developers distinguish themselves from the pack?
The key is to vertically integrate residential into commercial. Take a place like the Spectrum; it’s very cool, but there’s no residential. You have to walk across big boulevards to get to the residential. So, how do you integrate residential [apartments] with commercial so there’s a 24-hour experience? That’s tricky financially and from a design and planning standpoint. You need to be on top of the financials throughout the experience of doing the planning. You can have a fantastic vision for a walkable environment, but when push comes to shove, it doesn’t make financial sense unless you’ve thought it through from the very beginning.