J. Patrick Gill has been a builder of custom luxury homes for the better part of the last 15 years, with much of his work being done in the fashionable Falls Road corridor in northern Baltimore County.
He would see exclusive developments come to life throughout the area with grand homes of all varieties mixed together. The Georgian Colonials. The cedar contemporaries. The English Tudors. Lovely homes in their own right but, to him, a hodgepodge of horror.
He would shake his head and dream that one day he'd be able to pull it all together. Be the developer of a piece of land and control its fate. Act as the lone builder so that all the homes would have a consistent style with true architectural touches. Have the satisfaction of doing something that few -- if any -- in the custom-home business have ever accomplished.
That day for Gill and his partner, Michael R. Alderman, has arrived. And it's called Ivy Reach, a 48-acre development consisting of 14 homesites that will be purposely and exclusively styled in the tradition of floor plans found in Southern Living magazine. And next Sunday they will hold an open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. so the public can see the builders' vision of what a community should be.
"There are at least two subdivisions within a couple of miles of where we are located here in the [Falls Road] corridor, where the architectural committee intended to do its job but let houses in that were disasters -- architecturally. We routinely refer to them in this business as the 'Beetlejuice' houses," Gill said.
He and Alderman, whose expertise is in land development, have committed themselves to the concept of consistency of style, and that hasn't been lost on Robert Pollock, an agent for O'Conor, Piper and Flynn, who with Lynn Cortezi is selling the sites. Two homes are occupied, a third is under construction and a fourth is a "spec" house -- one that serves as a model of the style -- in the final stages of being completed.
"I was envious," said Pollock, who also has done his own developing and building along the Falls Road corridor. "It's the type of thing that I always wanted to do from a builder's standpoint that if you can control a subdivision, not just the type of homes, but that you will do all the building, you pretty much guarantee that the thing is going to be a success.
"If it's not, then you have nobody to blame but yourself."
Gill and Alderman had known each other for years. Gill is an attorney-turned-homebuilder, and Alderman is the son of a real estate development attorney who decided to go into the development business himself.
As Alderman would say, the two would socialize at the pool of their country club and knock ideas around. Many times they were amazed that they carried the same passions of how a community should come together and be developed.
"We always talked about neighborhoods in the area that were able to build different designs of houses, some of them contemporary, some of them traditional," Alderman said, "and wouldn't it be neat one day to build a subdivision that tied in the traditional values of architecture and something that we could control altogether from the building and development aspect."
They both had a desire to develop such a community, and both were hunting for that special parcel that could make their dream come true. Little did they know that separately they both had been zeroing in on a prime wooded area that would be key to the development just off Happy Hollow Road in Cockeysville.
Alderman was assured by the owner that he was the only developer with whom he was negotiating.
"He gave me a verbal [commitment] and a handshake and said, 'You got it if you come up with this number.' I said OK," Alderman said.
"I met Pat at the pool that weekend and said, 'Pat, I think I got a project that will work for what we are talking about. I was just thinking that it would be a great project to build out because it's such a pretty piece of property and because land in this area is very difficult to come by.'
"So he said, 'I think I have a parcel that I think will work, too!' " Alderman was suspicious. "I said, 'Let me tell you where my parcel is first.' He said, 'Wait a minute, that's my parcel.' "
The two realized that they were being played off one another, but instead of doing battle, they joined forces and eventually bought the land for $1.85 million and formed Ivy Reach Development Co. LLC.
"I wanted to learn the building business," Alderman said. "Pat wanted to learn the development business and also have a chance to own some of the parcels that he was building on. So it was actually a natural fit let's take that parcel and build on it, create a community that we are both proud of and stretch it out over a period of three or four years."
What Gill and Alderman ended up with was three parcels, a small subdivision of two lots and a right of way that led to two other subdivisions, one of which has six prime wooded lots.