Feb 9 2010

2009, A Look Back

Alright, I know that the popular time to look back at the past year and to the future is in early January. But I say better late than never, or that I am not very popular, or that I don’t do anything when I am supposed to. Or I can simply say I have been thinking about this post since early January!

Anyway, 2009 was a pretty wild year, as it was for most people. With the downfall of the economy, and the subsequent collapse of the construction industry, my business (and others in my field) took a huge hit. Beginning in late 2008 and into 2009, I was forced to restructure the entire company and let go all of my full time regular employees, all of which who had been with me for years. That was a very hard thing to do, but it had to be done. Shortly thereafter, we had to abandon our downtown office location since we could no longer afford the rent. Fortunately, with those changes, and the work we did have, we were able to stay afloat.

We also sold our home last year. We were planning on doing it anyway, but moved the time table up about a year. In one of the worst housing markets in recent memory, we were able to get it under contract in 2 months. It didn’t go smoothly, but we were able to get it closed. I blogged about that earlier in the year. So in the end, within a six month period, we moved both our office, and our home. In both cases, we had been in place for 9 years, and in that time, we accumulated a lot of stuff! It is fair to say, we did a lot of downsizing. While it was hard to do, it was also a good thing. There were other ups and downs. We both had extended family issues to deal with as well, so we spent the last half of the year recovering from all that.

Looking forward to 2010, I am fairly optimistic. Business is starting to show some signs of life, and I take comfort in the fact that while the economy is no where close to great shape, the worst is behind us, and we can look forward to better days sooner than later. We are also making plans to build a new energy efficient home. This will be located in Midori in Northwest Fort Collins. We are also looking at the possibility of moving an older historic home. We are also moving ahead with the Midori development with my business partner, and we are getting some renewed interest in it again. I am also formulating plans for migrating my career focus over time and am talking to potential investors on that one. In January, I was also elected as chair of the Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission.

By the way, I do plan on blogging about our adventures in building our house. This is not entirely new to us, as I used to be part owner Wildflower Homes, and will likely be building a few homes in Midori as well. We are just beginning the design phase for our home, and will share ideas as we go.

Finally, the owner of one of the other blogs I follow posted that she was going to leave the area, and would be closing down the blog. It is a great blog about historical tidbits of Fort Collins, so I volunteered to take it over. The owner of the blog graciously agreed, so as of this week I have that one too. I do plan on keeping both blogs separate, but there could be some cross posting. Be sure to check it out, Lost Fort Collins.

Dec 27 2009

UC Berkeley Campus

My friend and I spent a few hours walking around the UC Berkeley campus, and burt off a butt load of calories as this is a very highly campus. And a gorgeous one at that. It contains several historic buildings, as well as some extremely well done newer buildings.

One of the beautiful historical buildings on campus, off the main drive.

This one is the old library on campus. I found it amusing that there was no walk leading up to the grand staircase. (The entrance had actually been moved).

Historical Clock Tower. I think all cities should have some sort of icon like this.

This is the new business college building. I found it to be delightful. This is a huge building overall, but it was designed to resemble a series of buildings, complete with a village square. I also liked how they brought a lot of the craftsman style detailing indicative of the area into the building. They also pulled a lot of  classic detailing such as the arches into the building. Very well done.

Part of the central ‘Village Courtyard’. Did I mention this campus is hilly?

One of the things that really impressed me, among many, was the architectural detailing. The ‘lap’ siding, the window trim, the board and batten, the corbels, and all of it 100% concrete. Talk about fire proof, and it won’t rot either.

For more pictures of my visit, checkout my Picasa Web Album at

Sep 26 2009

New Urbanism in the Mountains – South Main

This summer I had the pleasure of being able to tour South Main in Buena Vista, Colorado. I have heard about this community through various news articles and publications, and I have visited the web site many times. I was not prepared though, for how wonderful and beautiful this neighborhood has become! First it was a little hard to find. I had a vague idea of where it was in Buena Vista, but there were no real estate signs directing you to it. However, you could see it from the main highway through town. Fittingly, you drive down Main Street in Buena Vista to get to South Main. This community is only just beginning, but already you can get a feel for what this community will become. The homes range from fairly modest, to large custom homes, but they all exhibit an attention to detail, and fine craftsmanship that insures these homes will be around for generations to come. Mixed in with the homes, are some scattered mixed use and commercial buildings. It is obvious that this is only the beginning of the commercial core, but what is there embodies the best of commercial architecture. Instead of massive look-alike buildings, or even large buildings that are designed to look like they were built over time, these buildings actually are individual, and will truly be built over time, giving them some real character and individualism. Even the streets have character. There is one street that is built of river cobble, presumably from the river that is adjacent to the site.

As unique as this community is, the story behind it is every bit as unique. The community came to being behind the vision and drive of the sister brother team of Jed Selby and Katie Urban. Neither one had developed a community before, much less having really been involved in real estate. Being life long residents of Buena Vista, and avid kayakers on the Arkansas River, they learned that this 41 acre site was being proposed for development, and would likely cut the river off from the town. Instead, they parlayed a family investment into the ability to purchase the property, vision a community based on sound design principles, and that keeps the river open for the enjoyment of all residents.

While I have enjoyed touring many wonderful New Urbanism communities, this one is a diamond in the rough. It is being masterfully crafted and carried out. My hats go off to Jed and Katie. I only hope that my own development projects turn out as well done as this one it.

Jun 30 2009

L.A. Offers Pay for Lawn Removal

As recently noted in the LA Times Blog, Los Angeles is offering homeowners up to $2,000 to replace their lawns with a sustainable landscape. Other cities such as Las Vegas have done this aggressively. In the blog, it is noted that Las Vegas has removed enough lawns to save 7 billion gallons of water a year, or about one-tenth of their annual water supply. Closer to home, Aurora has had such a program for years offering $1 per square foot for turf that is removed, the same as LA. While I don’t know how successful the program has been overall, I have worked with several HOA’s to reduce the turfgrass they have, and create more appealing communities in the process.

So when is Fort Collins and other Northern Colorado communities going to do the same thing? We keep preaching about water conservation, xeriscape, etc., but no money where the mouth is. Also, other communities such as Aurora and Castle Rock have more restrictions on creating water thirsty landscapes in the first place. When is Northern Colorado going to catch up? Did you know, that in the engineering standards for road design in Larimer County, which Fort Collins and Loveland use as well, it actually requires turf grass to be planted in the parkway strips? This is non-sense. Time to get on the bandwagon and really pay attention to this stuff before the next drought hits.

Jun 4 2009

Staining Trex Decking

Before PictureThose of us in design and building industries, and particularly those of us that focus on green building, always like to use more environmentally correct products whenever possible. When I started building 10 years ago, are homes always had large front Finished Porchporches, and they still do. At the time, all of our porches were wood framed, and we used Trex decking in lieu of Redwood as the surface material. Trex is considered a green product since it uses a lot of wood scraps in its making, never needs staining, won’t warp, rot, or splinter. I totally agree with all of this, except for the staining part. We have had a Trex porch for nine years now. I do truly like the product, but after nine years, it was starting to look pretty grungy. There have been wine spills, paint spills, and water stains. I have cleaned it several times, but to no avail. So I finally decided to stain it, using a stain that was approved by Trex. In my case, I used a solid color stain by Behr. I also put down two coats. First, I was amazed at how well Trex took the stain, and second, I was amazed at how the stain covered over all of the spots, including the paint spills. I was hoping for them to not be as noticeable, but they are simply gone now. The porch looks brand new, and now matches the paint scheme of our house. Now we shall see how long the stain lasts. BTW, in case you are keeping track, the Behr stain is water based, does not off gas, and cleanup was with water. That is pretty green in itself.