After completing three-quarters of a billion dollars in Sonoma County home sales in the past three decades, partners in life and real estate Jeff and Tracey Schween of Compass jumped into the postfire rebuild in the days afterward.
They then teamed up with architect Kevin Skiles, who had lost projects to the flames, to form design-builder Urban Building Workshop. The company has 65 construction employees, plus a few architects and staff working on 18 custom-style homes in the Fountaingrove area of northeast Santa Rosa. Six more homes are in the permitting stage, and three others are in design.
In this interview ahead of his participation on a panel at the Business Journal's May 29 Building the North Bay conference, Schween describes how the company has been building at lower cost in the upscale neighborhoods and what cultural reset Sonoma County needs to get out of its long-running housing shortage. It has been edited for clarity.
You have the interesting perspective of the rebuild as a top real estate agent and builder.
We don’t have anything completed right now, but we are we are going to be delivering homes, starting July. We’ll start our first delivery up on Foxtail Court. I’ve got (homes under construction on) Bristlecone, Foxtail, Windemere, Eagle, Woodbourne; that’s seven, all in the Fountaingrove-Fir Ridge neighborhood under construction right now. I’ve got three in Quietwater Ridge, which are all high-end custom homes being redone; those are $2 (million) to $3 million houses, and they’re getting windows popped in now.
We’ve got two on Vintage Circle, which would be on our lower end, like the 2,200- (to) 2,300-square-foot size, going in right now. One up on Westwood, which is a high-end custom home in the old Tuscany development; that’s like 3,600 square feet. (One on) Boulder Point, which has about 5,200 square feet, off Fountaingrove Parkway. That’s all underway right now.
And then we have Bracken Court that’s already started excavation and one on Southridge that hasn’t started yet. We just started home on Petalglen Place up in Skyfarm, and we have two others in Skyfarm we’re just going to be breaking ground on there. We’ve got a lot at 5000 The Pointe Place that’s in for permits right now. And then we’re going to start we’re starting all the architecturals on one of the most iconic lots in Fountaingrove II on the ninth and 18th green at The Fountaingrove Club on Llyn Glaslyn Place.
We’ve got a fairly exhaustive list in the size range from 2,100 up to about 5,800 square feet. And all of them fairly highline finishes, all texture, Marvin windows steel roofs, obviously complying with all the new codes.
Many of them are net zero or net zero-capable. Some of our clients have chosen that instead of being completely net zero construction, they do want some natural gas or fireplace feature or their barbecue or outdoor kitchen. Net zero, that’s a colloquialism we’re using in the industry right now. That’s about trying to get your (carbon) footprint down. We absorb solar energy, we spend that on the house, and that nets out at zero. But when using natural gas, you don’t really end up with a net zero.
Part of our program was to deliver high-quality homes but at a reasonable dollar. None of the houses we’re doing are the same; they’re all custom designed. But we’re synchronizing their build sequences, so that these four or those five are being put together in a group. We start one foundation, finish that, roll to the next, then roll to the next one. Our framing crews roll behind on each of those, and then our finish crews roll behind them.