August 15, 2003

At Home With Doug Dickens

– At Home In Memphis –

Building neighborhoods with a sense of community is a personal and professional goal for this native Memphian. Doug Dickens, a lifelong Memphis area resident who attended East High School and the University of Memphis, has not only watched the city he loves grow and change, but has also taken an active hand in directing its growth. As vice president of special residential projects for Boyle Investments, Dickens says his job is to pay attention to the small picture and ensure that houses in his developments don’t look as though they’ve all come from the same cookie cutter. “I’m a block builder,” he explains. “A lot of developers will get one architect to design and one builder to build all of the houses. They all look similar that way. The technique I’ve always used is to get different builders and different architects and coordinate the development so that every house is built by an individual.”

In 1979, Dickens was instrumental in creating the Planned Development Ordinance, a modification to city law “which would allow innovative site plans that the regular subdivision ordinance would not allow,” he says. “The key was being able to gate these communities and control access. It was a boon to the city, because we could put a number of houses where only one house would have been available.” The new rules made developments like Harbor Town possible. “It allowed for the redevelopment of the inner city,” he says.

Dickens’ goal is to foster a spirit of community in the projects he develops, bringing back an important aspect of the Memphis he remembers from his childhood. Most of his new projects include front porches, which he says help create a friendly atmosphere. “We develop the outside room as well as the inside rooms as a place where you can spend quality time. What makes a good neighborhood are people who want to enjoy their neighbors. I think the biggest compliment we get is that I’ve never met anybody who’s moved into our type of development and has later wanted to change lifestyles.”

A devoted family man, Dickens, with his wife Linda, has spent the last 27 years raising their four children, the youngest of whom is a junior at the University of Mississippi. “It was a great ride!” he says of watching his children grow into adults, but he is now ready to devote himself more fully to the demanding work of reshaping the Memphis cityscape. The results of his work may be very public, but the man behind them is not. “I’m not a very high-profile guy,” he says. “I don’t really think about when I’m doing well: I just kind of romance what I’m doing.”