VOL. 9 | NO. 16 | Saturday, April 16, 2016
EMPHASIS Residential Real Estate
Elkington Green Takes Infill Approach in Local Housing Market
DEVIN GREANEY | Special to The Memphis News
Two young developers are filling a niche by renovating, redoing, building and selling homes in the core of the city.
Brian Green, left, and Griffin Elkington are renovating and building new homes in established neighborhoods of Memphis that have stood the test of time for many decades. (Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
Griffin Elkington and Brian Green, principals of Elkington Green, are focusing on established areas of Memphis such as Crestview, Midtown, High Point and the University of Memphis area where residential properties have maintained a similar feel for generations.
Take 5441 Sycamore Grove Lane near the intersection of Yates and Shady Grove roads in East Memphis, which they purchased in January to remodel. It was built, along with most of the homes there, in the mid-1960s when kids bicycled through their neighborhood, walked to school, and where supermarkets were just a few minutes drive away. In 2016, that's still true.
3622 Highland Park Place and 19 Pinehurst St. are in an area that has a post-World War II baby boomer feel where Galloway Golf Course, Poplar Plaza and the University of Memphis were big draws then and now. The trees have gotten bigger since the 1950s, but the idea of living around large trees is still alive and well. High Point residents can walk up High Point Terrace to a supermarket where time seems to have stopped, along the way crossing the Greenline trail that has become the pride of modern Memphis.
"Our niche is not putting 50 homes in Collierville. It's infill in established neighborhoods," Elkington said.
About five years ago, the two developers began buying houses and fixing them up, then went to more extensive remodeling such as adding on a second story, then they began putting up new homes, Elkington said.
Though just seven of their properties are currently for sale, give them time. They have done 19 renovations, and have constructed five additional homes.
Elkington and Green are the first to build new homes on Lundee Place, located off Central Avenue about halfway between the University of Memphis and Christian Brothers University, since the road was developed in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Those homes average about 1,100 square feet. These new ones at 326, 332 and 338 Lundee Place by Elkington Green are 2,800 square feet.
"We built that first one, sold it in like a week, then we went ahead and started these two. We've got plans to do seven more on this street," Elkington said. The dead end that is there today will soon become a cul-de-sac with homes.
"We want to be in the $400,000s. We think there are a lot of young families that want to live in the city, but a lot of new construction is 700 or 800 grand," Elkington said. He mentioned another one of their developments, three homes in the Crestview area between Estate, Quince, Park and Interstate 240.
"Where are you going in East Memphis to get a half-acre lot for under half a million dollars? It doesn't exist."
With both partners being in their early 30s, they listen to what their clients and people their age are saying.
"The people we hang out with and we deal with they tell us what they like in houses,” Green said. “Showing houses to friends, and contemporary colleagues being in the houses, you get direct feedback. Those stick with you."
“We want it to look elegant without it being too fancy, and hip without being too contemporary.”
–Brian Green, Principal, Elkington Green
David Anderson is the architect for Elkington Green.
"He's very talented, he has a unique style," Elkington said.
In an email, Anderson said all three collaborated on the initial concepts for these current projects.
“We wanted to relate to the eclectic cottages in the immediate neighborhood context," Anderson wrote in the email. "The challenge became fitting a 2,800-square-foot new home into the existing environment, without overwhelming the surroundings."
Energy efficiency is important to younger buyers, more than they expected, the two principals said. Windows they install are designed to keep the good weather in and the bad weather out. Insulation and efficient air conditioning systems help to mitigate the infamous August and September utility bills, but it goes beyond that.
"It is trendy now," Elkington said.
Green recalls a woman interested in their properties who was passionate about her, and her house's place in the world. "We even looked into getting a gray water filtration system so she could water her organic garden with gently used dish water."
Despite the new-home smell and freshly laid sod, reminders of the era when the neighborhood was built are evident. The hexagonal tile in the bathroom has a feel of the 1920s, but the Jacuzzi tub is strictly millennial. The houses won't be mistaken for older ones with their giant master closets, but they do, like earlier builders, construct the houses to last.
"You see neighborhoods from the time when they started using Masonite siding, which is like basically cardboard that absorbs water if it's not painted all the time. We want to avoid something that requires a full facelift in 10 years," Green said.
"We want modern conveniences," Green added. "We want it to look elegant without it being too fancy, and hip without being too contemporary. No one builds wet bars in new homes these days, but you go to a house from the early to mid-1990s and they all have wet bars. We tried to avoid things that could fall into the wet bar category."
Elkington summed up their philosophy in one word – "Timeless."