July 12, 2016

Review Boards Ensure Project Integrity

By Theresa Berchard
– Emphasis: Architects & Engineers –

The rustic charm of Schilling Farms and the fresh contemporary appeal of Harbor Town couldn’t be held intact if not for the independent design review boards established for these types of specific planned community developments.

Whether working alone or in tandem with other architectural and design consultants, the design review board is responsible for ensuring that any proposed project fits the architectural and design aesthetics inherent to the developer’s original plan for community.

As more planned developments are adopting design guidelines to establish a consistent architectural tone and preserve the character of the neighborhood, project design review boards are playing an increasingly important role.

While setbacks, heights restrictions and other municipal building codes can present impediments to the design and construction of a custom home, custom home communities present even more regulations to prospective builders.

Design and architectural review committees also consider such elements as roof pitch, paint colors and window trim when determining whether a proposed project will pass muster.

Balancing creativity and guidelines was a main goal in the design review process for the 120-acre Harbor Town community, says J. Carson Looney, principal of Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, Inc. Looney worked with developer Henry Turley and Island Property Associates to create parameters, not just one particular style, that allowed for diversity with a wide range of styles.

"Guidelines should establish the fundamental bones of a neighborhood," Looney says. "Harbor Town allowed for diversity with traditional, neo-traditional and contemporary designs."

As the design-guideline consultant for Harbor Town, Looney and the project’s developers established some basic ground rules; a front porch, raised first floor, vertically proportioned windows and doors and recessed garages on lots without rear access.

"One of the biggest issues that comes up is most guidelines are written and you’re taking that and applying it to a visual element," he says.

Looney compiled and illustrated guideline book that showed inappropriate and appropriate architectural character for Harbor Town.

While Harbor Town follows somewhat looser guidelines to allow for diversity, the 443-acre Schilling Farms mixed-use development in Collierville retains natural attributes of the town, such as its agricultural heritage.

Every aspect of neighborhoods in Schilling Farms has been planned to lend a small town charm to the family-oriented development, says Gary Thompson, a Boyle Investment Co. landscape architect who serves on Schilling Farms’ review committee.

"Being on the west edge of Collierville, it needed to have the small town charm and we build upon that imagery," he says.

From the white rail fence that surrounds Schilling Farms to the requirement that all commercial signs be framed in white brick, getting some prospective tenants to adhere to the late-federal architectural style can be a challenge, Thompson says.

"As soon as you tell someone they’re controlled, they bristle their back and most people perceive it’s going to cost them more money," he says. "But good design doesn’t necessarily cost any more money. We’re trying to help the developers catch their vision for the project."