In Search of Design Freedom

After years of being forced to work on either the design or build side of construction projects, Jeff Cline did what most burgeoning entrepreneurs do; he started his own business. Doing design work for other builders carried Cline Design Group in Littleton, Colo., through the early years and the events of 9/11, after which the business evolved into the design/build firm it is today.

Offering clients the full-service design/build experience keeps them focused on his company, rather than on some other builder. “I don’t sell the construction contract upfront. But typically clients lock in for construction before the end of design. They like our ideas, and we’re saving them money, so there’s a trust established. They think of me naturally for the construction contract.”

The design/build process is what drives Cline’s spirit. “With design/build you’ve got a blank palette, and can design and build whatever you want. The joy of what I do is making something from nothing, turning it into a million-dollar home; something someone will make the biggest investment of their lives in — on something I created.”

In the Denver area, much of the home-building action is within city limits. Cline calls this revitalizing neighborhoods: buying old homes, demolishing them (what he calls scraping) and building brand-new homes in neighborhoods with well-vegetated parks and old-growth trees. “We bring pride back to a neighborhood by creating urban living that people are attracted to,” Cline says.

The Denver area endured growth that resulted in suburban sprawl. Cline thinks suburbia lacks character, and enjoys building where people are closer to ball games and theaters and restaurants. “It’s also more fun to design downtown. The developers in the suburbs create constraints, but in the inner city you can do modern, Tuscan, arts and crafts, or whatever style you want.”

Sure, while developers place fewer restrictions on design in the city, pesky neighbors can create problems. Neighbors can file another person’s home for historical landmark status without their knowledge, for a few hundred dollars, which can postpone a tear-down by up to four months. “The city is chasing its tail to deal with all the complaints. Occasionally there’s a home where a famous entertainer lived, and someone thinks it shouldn’t be torn down. But most of the homes are run down and need to be scraped.”

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