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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 11 2010

What's in a name? Developers create a feel for housing additions through brand

If you’re taking in Fargo-Moorhead’s Fall Parade of Homes the next two weekends, you’ll hear names conjured up by people who make their livings selling visions of sandy beaches, thick forests and burbling brooks on our flat-as-a-plate prairie farmland.

You’ll go to places like Arbor Park, Mallard Creek, Silverleaf, Woodhaven, Maple Valley, Shadow Wood, Westport Beach and Martens Way.

And you’ll do so because of folks like Bob Pearson.

The Eid-Co vice president in charge of marketing knows how to paint a mental picture without having it look like a Picasso.

Sometimes it’s easy.

Naming Moorhead’s Village Green after the golf course made sense since that was the amenity it surrounded, Pearson said.

Other times, the name reflects a philosophy, as with Eid-Co’s Legacy development in south Fargo.

“We just felt that home ownership was a legacy. It was part of the American dream,” Pearson said.

Creativity in engineering can also have a say in naming, said Jeff Schaumann, development manager for Arista Development.

Arista is coordinating Horizon Shores, which gets it name from Moorhead’s Horizon Middle School and the shores of the deep storm-water retention ponds integrated into the development’s parkland.

“Big amenities that make a creative name – that’s a great route to go,” Schaumann said.

A subdivision is like a brand name, Gerry Macintosh said.

“You want to pick something distinctive,” said the chairman of the management and marketing department at North Dakota State University.

The 38 Parade of Homes entries range from $123,000 to $619,000. So developers and marketers of the 20 developments involved chose names they felt connoted prestige, safety and relaxation, Macintosh said.

Fargo has two requirements for naming subdivisions, said Senior Planner Jim Hinderaker.

First, there can’t be names that duplicate other developments. That’s because names are part of the legal description. Second, the names can’t be obscene.

Developers typically name their developments after themselves, a family member, an animal or an attribute of the land, Hinderaker said.

For example, a developer may see a stand of majestic cottonwoods and name the development Cottonwood.

Then to develop the land, the trees are razed.

“You wonder 30 years later why they named it Cottonwood when there are no cottonwood trees,” Hinderaker said. “Sometimes you kind of shake your head. It is what it is.”

Pearson added that timing also plays a part in determining a major win or a painful wince when it comes to naming a housing area.

“After the flood in ’97, someone came out with a subdivision with the word ‘shores’ in it. Being around water wasn’t necessarily a plus at the time,” he said. “It was more of a headache.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583