LOVE THY NEIGHBOR[HOOD]
PHOTOS BY Paul Flessland, Heather Siverson, Ken Promersberger
If you’re considering building a house or making the move, you’d better know what’s under the snow. To uncover the dirt, we met with local developers to show us what Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo will soon see. New neighborhoods are in the works with exciting looks inspired by big-city high-rises, San Francisco-style architecture and even urban farm-life. There are new developments popping up everywhere, giving today’s homeowner acres of possibilities. In this friendly neighborhood guide, we’ll show you a few of our new favorites and give you a directory of many others to map out on your next Sunday drive.
Rocking Horse Farm
An urban development well underway
Just two years ago, Design & Living featured an up-and-coming community that would end up being the inspiration for an entire issue.
The developers, Ken and Jan Promersberger, had dreamed up an “urban-farm” community named Rocking Horse Farm. When we last visited with them, they showed us renderings of their modern, rural-themed community with an ode to North Dakota in its natural state.
Jan and Ken Promersberger
Lots had just become available in this 160-acre community, which would surround farmstead-inspired office spaces, complete with modern barns and wildlife ponds. With the passing of two years, we went back to see the progress and find out if their unique concept had made it from the drawing board to reality.
Location: Rocking Horse Farm’s development is located on the north side of 52nd Avenue South and west of Veterans Boulevard in Fargo, just south of the Osgood Golf Course.
Sketching a Neighborhood
To make this “urban-farm” theme work, the Promersbergers teamed up with local architect Chris Hawley to help homeowners fine-tune their existing designs. Builders and homeowners were provided with a housing-style guide and complimentary home-exterior sketch for each lot, aesthetically enhancing the rural-themed neighborhood. This was an exploration process that would take the Promersbergers, their team consisting of Craig Anderson, Hawley, and Jon Thorp a year to perfect before launching to homeowners.
“We couldn’t be happier with how the development is going,” said Anderson. “The Schulz’s were the first to get into the development, and that process went fantastically well. Throughout the whole development, the variety that is in here is exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want it to be every home looking the same.
“We’re not trying to be heavy-handed. We’re just trying to nudge the process a little bit with the quality of design. I think it’s working and I think people have really enjoyed it. We went to great lengths before home construction started to make sure the builders all knew and the people buying lots here understood how the process was going to go.”
A Neighborhood on the Grow
Today, the Promersbergers have successfully implemented their design process for multiple homeowners and home builders. Of the 136 single-family lots initially platted, about 20%, or 27 lots are still available to purchase by a homebuyer or builder.
The balance are either offered by 19 different home builders, or are owned by homebuyers. Since we last spoke, a farm-style machine shed is going up in the Farmstead Office Park and will consist of low-intensity office space, much like the red and white barns that are currently in the neighborhood.
At Rocking Horse Farm, there are no through streets and it’s not located in the flood plain. An Osgood Golf Course pond was extended into Rocking Horse Farm, thereby providing pond lots with a view of the golf course.
Currently, there are four pocket parks in the plan that are smaller pedestrian-scale parks. Prairie grasses, cattails and large expanses of turf will offer homeowners the calm and beauty of the farm with the convenience of the city. According to Anderson, each park will have its own theme. One will be an orchard, one will have shrubs and berries and native grasses will be used throughout.
“It’s all designed to be very indigenous to North Dakota,” said Anderson. “The trail access to larger-scale, more regional parks is fantastic from here.”
Other plans include a bigger neighborhood park to the east of the Farmstead Office Park. To ensure it’s mainly utilized for the residents of Rocking Horse Farm, there will not be parking lots, which will keep it more intimate to the residents of the neighborhood. A small neighborhood shopping center may be positioned in the southeast corner of the community at 52nd Avenue South and Veterans Boulevard, which will most likely contain service-type businesses and retail.
Hearing from the Homeowners
We wanted to hear from the homeowners to find out just how this new design process went for them, so we gathered a roundtable of three recent homeowners who all utilized the process in different, but unique ways. Our discussion began with Brad Clemenson, whose home was currently under construction, Chris and Heather Siverson who were just finishing their home, Dan and Nicole Schulz who completed their home a year ago and Todd Halle of T&S Custom Homes. Providing some extra insight were Hawley, Thorp and Anderson.
“The people in this room were all selected because their situations were completely different from each other,” said Hawley. “For Brad’s, we did very little, maybe just a couple comments and we were good to go. The Siversons went through the more classic architectural process process where they hired our firm to fully design their home based on photos they provided.”
The Schulz’s home was the perfect example of what the Rocking Horse Farm process would look like from beginning to end,” said Hawley. To explain why the design process went smoothly, Hawley clarified that the approach was not a design dictatorship. The changes were typically centered on small exterior details, up for discussion and not necessarily mandatory.
Brad Clemenson: Home Under Construction
Located in Tallgrass Cove, Brad Clemenson, a graphic designer for NDSU, is currently in mid-construction with his home. He took a different approach, using his graphic design software to design the home himself. After he designed the home and drew it out to scale, he worked with builder Jason Carpenter to complete the look, then submitted it to Hawley for minimal tweaks.
“Jason has been really great and really collaborative. It’s been a good partnership,” said Clemenson. “I’m a graphic designer, and I get to do creative work every day, but designing a house is really different. Working in 3D, planning spaces and choosing materials is a fun challenge. I appreciate that Jason is a great collaborator and is as excited about the design process as I am. I have been really happy with his input and willingness to work with me and my ideas.”
Standing in his home during construction, Clemenson points out the unique interior details that are underway, including the vaulted window area in his living room, sometimes referred to as a gabled clerestory or cupola.
Why did Clemenson choose Rocking Horse Farm? “I like the traditional, small community feel, with the walking paths and planned green spaces,” he explained. “I also appreciate that people can build creative, original homes, but there is a committee involved to ensure that no designs are off the mark. My last neighborhood had sort of a mix of everything, which I didn’t really love. I like a little more cohesion, but still some interesting and unique houses that I think fit together a little nicer.”
Chris and Heather Siverson: Home Nearing Completion
With their home almost complete, Chris and Heather Siverson took a different path by general contracting their stunning home from start to finish.
“We found a theme that we liked, then we took about 150 photos over to Dan Elton (Chris Hawley Architects) and had him draw it all out,” said Chris Siverson. “He did a very good job piecing that all together from our photos. We’re probably one of the homeowners that likes to be more involved throughout the whole process than most others. We’re going to do the flooring, tile, audio, painting and some other things as well.”
Why did the Siversons choose Rocking Horse Farm? As Heather Siverson explained, they were looking for a golf course lot. With this neighborhood, there happened to be a golf course and a pond.
“We loved how the community was going to be set up, having some of the wild grass and more natural features. For us, it was appealing and the design aspect just made it look different than every other neighborhood,” said Chris Siverson.
Dan and Nicole Schulz: Completed Home
Trailblazers Dan and Nicole Schulz were the first to build in Rocking Horse Farm and moved in nearly a year ago. As Nicole explained, they loved the old, small town, big city feel and also liked that it was a quiet community with a similar look, but without cookie-cutter homes.
For the Schulz’s home, they chose one of a few home designs offered by builder Todd Halle of T&S Custom Homes. Then Rocking Horse Farm worked with Hawley to tweak it for a more unique look.
“Both the homeowner and builder were very happy with the results. In fact, T&S optioned more lots after the project based on the positive reaction,” said Thorp.
The Builder’s Perspective
To hear how this process was perceived by a local builder, we spoke to Todd Halle of T&S Custom Homes.
“It was a different process, but I don’t think we felt pressure like you do this or you don’t get to build. It was, ‘What if you do this or that?'” said Halle.
“We took most of their suggestions, and there were some we didn’t take, but I thought the process was very painless. That’s one of the reasons why I’m building a second house here and I’ve got an option on a third lot because I like the theme that they are trying to incorporate here where there’s some design control and everything’s just a little bit different. As a builder, I like that.”
The Architect’s Perspective
Throughout the process, Hawley took homeowners’ existing plans and made small exterior alterations to give each home in the neighborhood a unique look, even if the same floor plan was used. “In short, we’re trying to show that Rocking Horse Farm has a unique design goal, but there are multiple ways to get there. It’s not only accessible to those who can afford an architect,” said Hawley. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we could bring design to folks that may not always ask for it and do it in a way where we weren’t heavy handed about it. So, we were really careful about making sure that we weren’t trying to control everything.”
For Hawley, variety was the best part about this development. “When talking about a themed development, that design aspect was one of the things that was set out from the very beginning, even set into the covenants. Most developments ask for a certain masonry or brick or whatever it is. This one didn’t ask for that. It was kind of a blank canvas,” said Hawley. “At the end of the day, every single one of them is designed, which is really refreshing. In most developments, there’s one that is designed and maybe three that aren’t. It’s fun to drive through because it’s a very spirited community already and we’re only a little bit into it.”
In the Details
When the Promersbergers and Hawley set out to achieve this concept, all were clear that they were never going to fundamentally manipulate somebody’s project.
“We were doing small modifications and it’s a lot of little things that people never think about or probably never notice at first glance; but when you see the end, you definitely see a difference,” said Hawley. “Had we gone at the process a little more heavy handed, I think we would have seen more resistance. There were a few at first that were scared of what that might look like, but I think once they went through it, they realized we weren’t asking for anything crazy.”
Pointing us to a series of four boards, Hawley and Anderson show us what each homeowner went through in their unique design process. The first part of the process involves homeowners bringing in a plan and then filling out a worksheet providing more information on their plans, budget and materials. Then, homeowners supply inspirational images of designs they love.
Once the team had the information and images they needed, Hawley would generate an image and create a list of things that might benefit the project. Homeowners can then discuss which options they would like to implement in their exterior design and which they’d prefer to keep unchanged.
“We suggested certain things. If they were too costly, we peeled certain things off. The way we talked about it was like robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Hawley. “For certain things, we’d say, ‘Let’s not spend money on that, let’s spend it over here instead.’ That has happened and there is a little bit of back and forth.” As homeowner Clemenson adds, “In the initial phase, they asked us how much flexibility we had, so that influenced some of the decisions that were made.”
“All we’re trying to do is create more artistic things, including the art side of architecture,” explained Hawley. “We centered on certain things like the rhythm of windows and added little things that maybe call out the entry a little better. It’s small things that are really important. In this case, we had a couple of windows that were modified and we grouped a few things. In a lot of houses, there’s sort of iconic things that become a signature for a house. In this one, it was the round window. At the end of the day, it’s a small thing, but it’s a little bit of a thumbprint for their house.”
For more information, contact:
Rocking Horse Farm
4838 Rocking Horse Circle, Fargo