Small builder gets big chance
Birchwood Properties part of two of Calgary’s largest redevelopments
It’s been a wild six months for Birchwood Properties. Until late last summer, the Calgary builder was quietly working on a residential project in the northwest community of Royal Oak while at the same time building infill housing in inner-city communities — just after finishing off a fairly large development in the west-side neighbourhood of Cougar Ridge.
Then two phone calls four months apart dramatically changed the profile of the small company,
The first call in August was answered by Jeff Cheverie, Birchwood’s 38-year- old president and CEO.
On the other end of the line was Cody Clayton, president of Remington Developments, with news that Birchwood was to be part of Quarry Park, a high-profile, mixed-used development in southeast Calgary.
Birchwood was selected to be the exclusive builder of townhomes in the initial phase of multi-family construction in the project, making a commitment for 60 units.
In November, Cheverie got the second call, this one to inform him Birchwood had been named by Canada Lands Co. as one of six showhome builders in Currie Barracks.
Currie Barracks is the final phase of the redevelopment of the former CFB Calgary military base.
“The last six months have been a very big deal for us,” says Cheverie from his Kensington office. “We’ve been able to land a couple of high-profile projects and we’re very proud of that.”
Despite the fact he knows Clayton personally, Cheverie says Birchwood still had to prove itself in the field — dem- onstrate it can follow through on the presentation it laid out for Remington Developments.
“Sometimes, it’s who you know that gets you in the door,” he says. “But in the long run, it’s what you do once you’re in the door that counts.”
Cheverie’s father, Carl, started Birchwood about 14 years ago as a passive investor in U.S. markets.
In 1998, son Jeff came on board and learned more about the business. As he went along, he changed the firm’s direction toward active development in and around Calgary.
While Carl has stepped back from the day-to-day operation of the company, he continues to be responsible for strategic and financial planning.
He also assists with new acquisitions and partner relations, as well as providing direction to all operating groups of the company.
“I’m pleased we’ve been named an exclusive builder in Quarry Park and I’m excited about what we have planned,” says Carl. “It and Currie Barracks are both great developments.”
Jeff, who says he’s a fan of Quarry Park, calls the project one of the best master-planned business parks in Calgary, offering a blend of office space, retail, commercial and residential, as well as plenty of green space.
Birchwood’s plans call for two-and three-storey townhomes that will be called Boulevard Townes of Quarry Park.
Measuring between 1,500 and 2,200 square feet and priced from the high $380,000 range, the townhomes come with steep-pitched roofs, rear-detached garages, decks, acrylic stucco and stone exteriors.
Some of the plans will have turrets. The townhomes have also been designed by NORR Architects Planners to allow some structural options to the upper-floor layout.
There will be two phases, one with 38 units and the other with 22. Remington has also established strict architectural and landscaping controls for the overall community.
The on-site sales centre is slated to open in April, followed by the beginning of construction. Cheverie expects to have show homes ready by the fall, with occupancies beginning before the end of this year.
In Currie Barracks, Birchwood is building a totally different type of housing — detached homes priced from $759,900 to $959,900 (including double- detached garages, landscaping and fencing). The commitment is for 12 lots measuring 30 to 42 feet.
Because of the high-profile of the community, Cheverie recruited the help of Ron Poon of Poon McKenzie Architects to design the interiors and exteriors of the homes.
“The requirements at Currie Barracks are so prescriptive. we thought it prudent to bring in a true architect,” says Cheverie.
Plans are for construction of the show homes to begin in the next month or so and to be open by September.
With the able assistance of vice-president Aaron Hamstead and marketing manager Adele Kerr, Cheverie sees Quarry Park, Currie Barracks and CityLife Homes By Birchwood as solid “stepping stones” for the future growth of the company.
Birchwood’s goal is to become one of the top 10 builders in the city, meaning it will have to double its current production — something Cheverie sees happening in the next two years.
This year, the corporate budgetscalls for 115 sales.
“It’s not like we’re the new kids on the block,” he says.
“We’ve been around for 14 years, working hard and making progress. Right now, CityLife is active in three communities and will have 30 possessions this year. We might be among the biggest inner-city builders in the city.”
With everything it has on its plate and the latest announcements, Cheverie says Birchwood is “re-evaluating” where it wants to be in the Calgary marketplace.
“While we still have to show people what we can do, we have learned how to improve the quality of the homes we build and to better target our markets,” he says. “We’ve proved we stack up with the big guys — now, we have to follow through.”
An artist’s rendering of the elegant Boulevard Townes of Quarry Park, which are to be constructed by Calgary builder Birchwood Properties.
Condos in Birchwood Properties’ Cougar Ridge development.
From left, vice-president Aaron Hamstead, marketing manager Adele Kerr and president Jeff Cheverie of Birchwood Properties.
An artist’s rendering of an upscale detached home that Birchwood Properties plans to build within Currie Barracks.