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Attention to the Fundamentals: An Insider’s Take On Martis Camp

A brief survey of the last few years makes it apparent to the most casual observer that the luxury real estate market has largely reflected the broader economic malaise. Perhaps that’s what makes rare exceptions like Martis Camp so noteworthy.
With a 30-year portfolio of some the most successful private communities in the West, developer Jim Bartlett—of DMB-Highlands Group—spent a few minutes sharing his take on why Martis Camp real estate has consistently thrived while so many communities around it have gone the way of the masses: south.
“To be successful in this sort of enterprise, we’re behooved to apply considerable imagination and fresh thinking to solid fundamentals—starting with the latter.”
It’s not uncommon to see communities developed with the idea that fundamentals can be forced with the application of capital, Bartlett explained. “With the exception of the most extraordinary market conditions—such as the late 90‘s—this simply does not work…the absence of good fundamentals cannot be overcome by the mere infusion of capital.”
“We wanted to take solid fundamentals, add imagination and hard work, and combine it with a distinctive architectural approach to make Martis Camp one of the truly exceptional communities of its generation.”
At Martis Camp, those fundamentals are as simple as they are profound: location and setting! Set in the historic Martis Valley and located between North Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Martis Camp is an easy drive from the Bay Area. More precisely, it’s exactly what people who love the High Sierra expect: scenic rolling terrain, a meandering mountain creek, magnificent mature trees and breathtaking 360° views.
Building on those fundamentals, DMB/Highlands sought to further differentiate Martis Camp from the competitive set of recreation communities. They determined one way to do so was by subordinating golf to the family-centered experience. “If you made it all about the golf,” explained Bartlett, “you were competing against 50 other great golf communities in the U.S.—so we decided to make family and friends the focus.”
As anyone who knows anything about Martis Camp will testify, this hardly means golf was slighted. Tom Fazio designed a superlative course that Golf Digest ranked Third Best New Private Course in the country and Forbes named among the 12 Best Private Golf Communities in America. So clearly, the goal of creating an exceptional golf experience was realized.
The idea was simply that—above all else—Martis Camp would be a place where families could retreat to make memories and bond in a way that’s tough to do in the harried cities in which we live. Those who have come here have enthusiastically embraced that vision and have begun to make it part of their personal story. The extent to which this reality has shaped Martis Camp and contributed to its success is nothing shy of huge.
To further strengthen the family experience, the developers broke with convention in a second important arena: club membership. “Adding the unique three-generation membership has allowed our families to see true value because they can share it with their kids and their parents….in a convenient, easily accessible location” Bartlett stated.
Finally, to take advantage of its border with Northstar™, Martis Camp was differentiated from all but a couple of mountain communities in the West with the addition of private access to a ski lift inside the community’s gates. “This created a true four-season complement, allowing our families to enjoy the best of all worlds,” noted Bartlett.
With the fundamentals in place and the cultural tone set, Bartlett said “this is where imagination began to drive possibility.”
The ways in which Martis Camp’s amenities have engaged families isn’t a short list, but perhaps none serve as a better example of the developer’s innovative approach than the Family Barn.
“We started with what amounted to a summer swimming venue, a snack bar and an event lawn and wound up with indoor basketball, a bowling alley, Art Loft, movie theatre, a nostalgic Soda Fountain and a performance stage that serves an outdoor amphitheater.”
“In turn, Bartlett said, “the Family Barn became the center of all sorts of programming, with the amphitheater giving rise to the Summer Concert Series and the Art Loft anchoring the highly popular Folk School.”
“So what we originally viewed as largely a summer amenity became equally popular in winter. It doesn’t take families long to see that unwinding in the Art Loft, catching a movie with friends or enjoying dinner at the Soda Fountain after a day on the slopes beats the heck out of watching TV in a condo.”

“When the story was fully written,”Bartlett concluded, “we didn’t want California families to have to fly over Tahoe to have a superlative experience in Vail or Aspen….we wanted to take solid fundamentals, add imagination and hard work, and combine it with a distinctive architectural approach to make Martis Camp one of the truly exceptional communities of its generation.”
“From what our members tell me” he said, “I think we’ve achieved that.”

Some 360 families agree—and that number is growing weekly.