Custom builders are seeing rapid sales in Front Range neighborhoods that the bigger builders won't touch

Date Sunday, 5 January 2014 12:00 AM

Not everybody wants a house designed by a national big-name builder - and for living proof you can visit some fast-selling models today in two neighborhoods that big builders won't go near; one in Denver's Berkeley area, a short walk from restaurants on Tennyson Street near Highlands; the other near Applewood and the new St. Anthony Hospital, a half mile from a new light rail station.
Both of them feature the work of G.J. Gardner Homes - biggest builder that nobody ever heard of - now ranked 12th largest dollar-volume builder in Denver Business Journal's annual survey. "People want to be walking distance to restaurants, but big builders just can't come into Highlands," says Dave Pagano, who builds homes in Denver city neighborhoods for G.J. Gardner - including a sharp looking contemporary at W. 44th and Winona Court, three blocks west of Tennyson's dining.
How much home can you get from a custom builder in the Highlands area? For $660,000, Pagano is doing a 5-bedroom, 3½-bath single-family home in Sunnyside, with 2,500 square feet above grade, another 1,200 finished in the basement, and a 2-car garage - and can come in with similar sizes on duplex-style homes closer to Berkeley's action at around $600,000. Pagano says prices like that look great to residents who invested in small bungalows in Highlands six years ago, who can't find reasonable ways to bring them up to date with newer features.
"The quality of work is outstanding," says graphic designer Laura Manthey, closing next week on a duplex plan that G.J. Gardner did for her nearby on Stuart Street, after she researched lots of options. "People get excited about this price point," Pagano adds, showing off his model. "And they still get this level of customization."
Pagano says G.J. Gardner provides management tools that allow him to work that magic - something that's also performing for Bob Shearer, who builds for G.J. Gardner in Jefferson County, including Applewood Summit, north of W. Colfax on Urban Street, a haven for roomy ranch plans (tour one today, along with a big-value two-story). "Nine of ten people we talk with are after ranches," says Shearer, who notes that G.J. Gardner has exclusive rights to a new ranch series by top architect Jerry Gloss of Boulder - and has around 100 sites for them, including nine at Applewood Summit, where he can package homes from $405,000.

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