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Davidson Communities' Team Presents Case Study of Award Winning The Oaks Farms at ULI Forum

Thursday, December 22, 2016 / Urban Land Institute

Carina Hathaway, Bill Davidson, John Martin, Dawn Davidson among presenters at ULI Industry Leaders Forum

 IRVINE, CALIFORNIA – John Martin, principal of Martin & Associates kicked off the October 12th, session of ULI OC/IE’s Industry Leaders Forum by introducing a dynamic presentation by an executive team from Davidson Communities and their key consultants. The focus of the evening was a thorough case study of Davidson Communities’ award-winning community, The Oaks Farms in San Juan Capistrano. The team included Dawn Davidson - Founder and Chairman of Design Line Interiors, Bill Davidson - Founder and President of Davidson Communities, Susie Saladino - Online Marketing Strategist and Founder of Social Call Media, and Carina Hathaway - Former Vice President of Marketing for Brookfield Residential, Marketing Consultant, and Partner at ANSO Properties.


The topic of bringing together a team of company leaders and experienced consultants opened the evening’s discussion, lead by Ms. Hathaway. The veteran marketing professional talked first about her own career path, including her degree in business, marketing and psychology from San Diego State University and nearly 10 years in sales and marketing at Taylor Woodrow Homes. She also guided strategic marketing at Brookfield Residential as Vice President of Marketing for over 18 years. Ms. Hathaway discussed what makes a good consultant as well as changes in the industry and how the industry responds to them. She further discussed her consulting role in The Oaks Farms community. She pointed out the differences between boutique homebuilders and grand scale homebuilders, where from the top down there is a deep passion and inspiration to do the very best. She attributes those virtues to being the impetus behind the success of The Oaks Farms in San Juan Capistrano, a 32 home luxury community in a world-class equestrian environment. The Oaks Farms has won a record number of awards in one year including Gold Nuggets, an international awards show, and a record number of Southern California Awards [SoCal] and a record number of finalist nominations at the upcoming Nationals Awards in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Hathaway then introduced Bill Davidson, Davidson Communities Founder and President.


Mr. Davidson referenced the passion that Ms. Hathaway alluded to, recounting his experience of first being introduced to The Oaks Farms property and immediately having a strong and meaningful connection to the land, its history, and its pure beauty and grace. He went on to describe how it made him feel an emotional commitment as a homebuilder. He then outlined the acquisition and approval processes, and spoke at length about communicating his vision for the community’s architecture, landscape, marketing, merchandizing and overall land use. His passion and dedication to the community was clear from the very beginning; enhance the natural beauty of the land, while also preserving the legacy of its original owner, Joan Irvine and The Oaks Farms Equestrian Facility.


Mr. Davidson talked about what he called creative “secret sauce.” This notion embodies his belief that true creative minds, who possess the vision, desire, and inspiration for the art of building and creating undeniable beauty, are not only rare, but truly invaluable. He pointed to the idea that it takes years to form a true bond and relationship of understanding between collaborators. When asked by financial partners to “bid out creative,” he finds it impossible due to the rarity of real, raw talent. He gave an example of how the success of sales was directly related to the number of options and upgrades available. That led to his story about how he met his spouse, Dawn Davidson, Founder and Chairman of Design Line Interiors. Bill was Dawn’s first client 31 years ago. They married 10 years ago, and have a flourishing professional relationship, to which Mr. Davidson attributes a great deal of Davidson Communities’ success.


With this as her informal introduction, Dawn Davidson took to the podium, and shared her background as an entrepreneur founding Design Line Interiors, Inc. in 1985 at the age of 25. She is a 2011 inductee into the California Homebuilding Foundations’ Hall of Fame, and the recipient of the BIA’s Building Professional of the Year and Design Professional of the Year awards. She also spoke of the importance she places on giving back to the community through various civic and philanthropic organizations, and of remaining active and relevantly involved in the industry.


Ms. Davidson went on to discuss the vision for The Oaks Farms Sales Office and Model Homes. She discussed the function of a sales office in grabbing the visitor’s attention, engaging them in the builder’s story, creating anticipation, and using cues from fashion and retail. She takes inspiration from international sources such as the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and Einhardts Hotel in Queenstown New Zealand. As for realizing the clear vision from which Model Homes are created, she speaks of the art of “Pretending and Playing House.” By imagining the personalities, lifestyles and daily experiences of those who will live in the home – from the owner to the gardener to the pets – helps to give the model home experience its authenticity and genuine appeal. With the added dimensions of legacy, history and preservation to guide their merchandising efforts at The Oaks Farms, authenticity is key in creating an atmosphere that the community can connect to on not only a visual level, but an emotional level as well.


Ms. Davidson also discussed how merchandising has changed, and will continue to change. She cited the shift from living rooms and parlors to great rooms, the U-shaped kitchen to large islands and large collaborative spaces, from built-in tubs to free-standing tubs, spa showers with benches, and the like. The one thing she predicts will never occur is the replacement of model homes with a virtual experience. The model home experience encompasses every human sense, including the sixth sense which she believes is hope for a better, more passionate way of life, based on the stimulus the other senses provide.


Next up, Susie Saladino, Online Marketing Strategist and Founder of Social Call Media, discussed completing the homebuilder’s vision by reaching potential buyers to draw them into the community’s story. She spoke about being authentic in social media and, at The Oaks Farms, bridging the gap between jet-setter horse people and move-over families, and the second or third home purchaser. Her company reached out via horse shows, equestrian media, and social media, and more locally, to the audiences attending such events as the Romance of the Mission Benefit gala. They utilized a large number of equestrian and horse-related events, including Thrive Animal Rescue, adoption days, sponsoring grand prix and fashion events. She also spoke about the move-over market, who do not live the jet-setter lifestyle, but appreciate the finer things for their families. Their messages must relate to meaningful authenticity of the lifestyle – not flashy, but really grounded in family life in San Juan Capistrano.


The highly entertaining and enlightening evening concluded with enthusiastic applause by attendees, followed by networking, socializing and congratulations to the speakers on the immense success of The Oaks Farms.


Continuing with a roster of leading top marketing executives and leaders in community development and the homebuilding industry, ULI INDUSTRY LEADERS & MANAGERS PROGRAM runs through November 2nd, 2016 with a break during the week of the ULI Fall Meeting, October 26th. The program is organized and led by John Martin of Martin & Associates.


Participants at every level of experience and various members in the industry attend these valuable two-and-one-half hour seminars that meet Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at First Service Residential in Irvine. There are several ways to participate including special pricing for ULI OC/IE Members and non-members as well as students and the public.

For details on these special programs or to register, email


The Urban Land Institute ( is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the ULI has more than 40,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

Published by : Fran Bangert
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