From the moment you enter a community, there should be a discernible sense of arrival. It should just feel like home.
As planners and landscape architects, the development of thoughtful entry sequences – or marketing trails – is an important component of our work. On its most basic level the marketing trail is a means to get from one point to another, but the strategy and nuances that go into its development can significantly influence the success of a community before, during, and after full build-out. So what are the key considerations when developing a marketing trail, and how can communities make the most of this often overlooked amenity?
Considerations such as roadway alignment, traffic patterns, landscaping, and lighting are all very important in the development of the marketing trail. But other less obvious design considerations are just as critical, including the length of roadway from its beginning to the sales center, the posted speed limit, and the incorporation of contextually appropriate site features that help communicate the underlying community identity. Additionally, the scale of the marketing trail should compliment the scale of the overall development. RVi’s design of the marketing trail for Walsh Ranch in Fort Worth (featured below) includes expansive medians and dramatic vertical and horizontal alignments that respond to the topography. This entry sequence is appropriate for the 7,500 acre community, but would be designed quite differently for a smaller development.
Appropriate signage is another important factor in the design of the marketing trail. There are multiple levels of signage that must work together towards the community’s goals, including entry monumentation, specific neighborhood and site signage, directional signage, and informational/wayfinding signage. The development of a signage plan that is fully integrated with other community thematics helps create a cohesive sense of place. For example, at Belterra, RVi worked with the development team to integrate the arched logo of the community into signage as well as site fixtures (featured above).
Finally, in order to bring these considerations to fruition, prioritization of available funding and planned amenities is key. The marketing trail often requires a greater upfront cost – though it benefits the entire community for the life of the project. It also demands a higher concentration of activities – from parks and trails to schools and amenity centers, the marketing trail is the place to showcase those features which will be most attractive to homebuyers.