Hurricane Irma: One year later

This week marks a full year since Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida and brought record flooding and damage to our corner of Jacksonville and many other areas across the southeast.

Our staff maintained good spirits while working together in close quarters on our office's second floor for two months while construction took place on the lower level, which suffered considerable flooding damage from the St. Johns River's high tides and storm surge that affected much of downtown Jacksonville and adjacent urban neighborhoods.

Our office was fortunate to be fully recovered within a few months of the storm, and celebrated the new renovations and improvements along with partner Tim Miller's retirement earlier this year. 

Scroll through the gallery below to see some before, during and after photos from the recovery and renovation process! 

ELM is Hiring: Entry-Level Architect in Jacksonville, Florida

Are you interested in joining ELM's team of skilled, creative, multidisciplinary designers in our Jacksonville office? 

We are looking for an ambitious, talented and self-motivated individual to join the Ervin Lovett Miller team in an entry-level architectural position. The individual will be working as part of a collegial, multidisciplinary team, providing creative design and technical document execution for clients requiring the firm’s exceptional professional service and holistic perspective for a variety of interesting projects in unique locations at multiple scales.

Does this sound like a good fit for you or someone you know? Click below to learn more and apply!

Tamaya Receives Excellence in Construction Award for Commercial Construction

Tamaya 02 Architecture.jpg

Tamaya, a large, infill mixed-use community located midway between downtown Jacksonville and the beaches, recently received an Excellence in Construction Award from the First Coast chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC). Tamaya’s amenity center, entryway and hardscapes won the Eagle Award for the Commercial Construction category for projects between $5-10 million.


The nearly 800-acre community is centered around the Residents Club, a Mediterranean-inspired clubhouse and amenity center that acts as the civic, social and recreational heart of Tamaya. The club features an aquatic facility with a Junior Olympic-sized pool, interactive spray features, a splash plaza, and beach-entry lagoon pool; a state-of-the-art fitness/wellness facility; Har-Tru tennis courts; a playground; and multi-purpose event lawn.

As the project’s general and specialty contractor, Dicky Smith & Company collaborated with ICI Communities, the developer, and ELM, the master planner, and landscape architect, to build the commercial aspects of the Tamaya community, including the Residents Club, pool and aquatics facility and fitness/wellness center.

ABC’s Excellence in Construction awards program is the industry’s leading competition that honors both general and specialty contractors for innovative and high-quality construction projects. Entrants are judged on complexity, attractiveness, unique challenges, completion time, workmanship, innovation, safety and cost.


Shearwater Amenity Center Honored with Prestigious Design Awards

Shearwater entry

Shearwater, a master-planned development in St. Johns County, was recently honored with the prestigious Southeast Building Conference (SEBC) Grand Aurora Award for Best Recreational Facility, and a Silver Aurora award for Best Community Site Plan.

The Aurora Awards are an annual design competition of the SEBC, hosted by the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA), recognizing the best in design across the Southeast United States in over 50 categories. This award celebrates the thoughtful design and success of the 1,500-acre community, particularly its amenity center—which includes the community’s Kayak Club and Fitness Lodge, a resort-style lagoon pool, multi-lane lap pool, lazy river, water slide tower, tennis courts, extensive trail system and access to Trout Creek.

Shearwater Pool and Slide

Developed by Freehold Communities, Shearwater was designed to promote healthy living, community engagement and a connection to the outdoors. Freehold worked with well-known Northeast Florida companies to bring its vision for an immersive lifestyle community to life. ELM was Shearwater’s community master planner, amenity architect, and community landscape architect. As the project amenities and hardscape contractor, Dicky Smith & Co. (DSC) built the 12.5-acre amenity center, neighborhood entrances and parks. Ansana Interior Design provided interior design services for the community amenities.

The award-winning Shearwater community has received numerous accolades since its opening in 2016, including four 2017 Aurora awards, a 2017 ABC Excellence in Construction Eagle Award, and an Award of Merit at the 2018 PCBC Gold Nugget Awards.

Shearwater Amenity Center Aerial View

To learn more about the Aurora Awards and view all winners and nominees, click here.

News4Jax: Rooftop bar, restaurant planned for mixed-use space in Wildlight

ELM is designing a four-story, 42,000 sq. ft. multi-use building in Nassau County's Wildlight development, which will include a restaurant and rooftop bar.

Read the article below via News4Jax to learn more about the project and when construction will begin!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Published by the News4Jax
By: Francine Frazier, Senior web producer

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. - A four-story, mixed-use building is coming to the Wildlight development in Nassau County, according to an announcement Tuesday from the Dalton Agency.

The Sheffield family, the entrepreneurs behind several hospitality and insurance companies based locally and across the state, purchased 1.76 acres to develop the project, which is set to feature a rooftop bar, restaurant and new corporate headquarters.

“As longtime Nassau County residents, we are always looking for ways to further invest our time and energy back into the community we call home,” said Wes Sheffield, CEO and managing member of Amelia Underwriters, Inc. “We believe Wildlight has the right foundation, energy and long-term vision to drive economic development and attract talented employees for years to come.”

 Rendering courtesy of the Sheffield Family and News4Jax

Rendering courtesy of the Sheffield Family and News4Jax

Within the 42,000-square-foot building, the Sheffield family is planning to incorporate a liquor store and bar concept similar to its popular Fernandina Beach location, the Decantery, alongside a restaurant and rooftop bar.

The Sheffields will also be moving their insurance company’s corporate headquarters into the new mixed-use project’s office space. The Sheffields are working with ELM to design the building. 

“We are pleased to welcome the Sheffields' mixed-use project to Wildlight, which includes Amelia Underwriters’ new corporate headquarters,” said Charles Adams, vice president of community development for Raydient Places + Properties. “The Sheffields have seen great success with their Decantery concept and we believe their plans for a restaurant and rooftop bar will appeal directly to future residents, employees working in the Wildlight village and community members alike."

The project is on track to break ground in Fall 2018 with expected completion in 2019.

Shearwater honored with Awards of Merit at PCBC Golden Nugget Awards

shearwater trail.JPG

Judges for the 2018 Gold Nugget Awards have named Freehold Communities as an Award of Merit winner in its annual competition, which honors architectural design and planning excellence and draws entries from throughout the United States and internationally.

Shearwater, an ELM-designed community in St. Johns, Florida, was recently honored with Awards of Merit by the 2018 Gold Nugget Awards for both Best Community Land Plan, and Best Indoor/Outdoor Lifestyle for a Community.

PCBC’s Gold Nugget Awards are presented annually to innovators in design, planning and development, and the competition is open to builders, architects, developers and land planners with projects located across the nation and globe.


Shearwater was designed to be carefully woven into the native landscape, with parks, open spaces and trails that encourage residents to spend time outdoors and enjoying the Florida sunshine. With a beautifully natural existing site, ELM designed Shearwater for a multigenerational population including active families. Shearwater embraces the qualities of ecological preservation and human activity – together. 

Congratulations to Shearwater and Freehold Communities!

Sage Lodge Opens in Montana



Sage Lodge, a new resort and ecotourism destination located in Montana’s Paradise Valley, opened its doors on Monday, July 16.

Located along the Yellowstone River just 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, Sage Lodge is expected to become an international destination offering visitors an authentic Montana outdoor experience, and access to some of the world’s best fly fishing and recreational opportunities. Through a partnership with Sage, a world-class manufacturer of fly fishing rods and equipment, Sage Lodge offers guests the very best in fly fishing and outdoor experiences.


From the inception of the planning process, the project team has envisioned Sage Lodge as a place to authentically connect people to these wild and unique lands.” 

-ELM Partner Steve Lovett


ELM helped to lead the project’s planning and design efforts, working together with the client and consultant team with an emphasis on treading lightly, preserving and enhancing the native meadow grasslands, and integrating lodge buildings, accommodations, a spa and other recreational amenities intelligently and creatively into the site’s 1,400 acres. The results of these efforts are designed to leave a perpetual legacy, forever honoring the region’s distinctive landscapes and dramatic natural geography.

“From the inception of the planning process, the project team has envisioned Sage Lodge as a place to authentically connect people to these wild and unique lands,” said ELM founding partner Steve Lovett.

“The plan orients and immerses visitors into the dramatic natural scale of the region known as the Paradise Valley. Special attention was paid to sight lines and commanding views of the 10,915-foot Emigrant Peak to the south.”


The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the United States, and outdoor enthusiasts have long recognized the Paradise Valley region of Montana as home to some of the world’s best fly fishing and other outdoor pursuits. The design of Sage Lodge celebrates the four-season beauty of this beautiful place, featuring a spa and onsite restaurant alongside its 34 lodge guestrooms and four freestanding cabins. 

ELM worked with the client and development team that includes: Joshua Green Corporation, Touchstone Corporation, and Columbia HospitalityJensen / Fey is the architect of record for the lodge and spa.

Defying Expectations for Master-Planned Communities

The homebuying preferences of different generations, particularly millennials and baby boomers, are evolving and contradicting  predictions. This article in the most recent issue of Urban Land magazine, the quarterly publication from the Urban Land Institute, explores master plans and the draws of these communities for both millennials and baby boomers.

The article mentions Shearwater in St. Johns County, and Arden in Palm Beach County--two innovative ELM projects that have taken unique approaches to incorporating both the urban and suburban to create vibrant communities for multiple generations.

Original article by Kevin Brass for Urban Land Magazine

July 2, 2018



Millennials and baby boomers were expected to transform the housing market as they grew older. Finicky younger buyers would demand new designs and urban lifestyles, shunning their parents’ suburban neighborhoods. At the same time, downsizing boomers would trade their large suburban homes for downtown condominiums, leaving outlying communities with fading strip malls and unwanted houses, some analysts predicted.

It has not worked out that way. The two largest demographic groups in history are not behaving as many prognosticators thought they would. Millennials are having families and buying houses in the suburbs, just as their parents did. Instead of fleeing the suburbs, many boomers are “aging in place,” refusing to sell their large homes or give up their jobs.

Faced with buyers who are not acting as expected, builders have been forced to reconsider their strategies. “Our business model has really changed in the last three years,” says Haythem Dawlett, principal of Austin, Texas–based Legend Communities, which has shifted its focus to active-adult projects. Developers, investors, and analysts are racing to figure out what millennials and boomers really want. New opportunities are emerging as old models lose their luster.

There is no denying the impact that millennials and boomers are having on the industry. Millennials—people 37 and younger—are the largest group of homebuyers in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of sales, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Sixty-three percent of those millennial buyers were buying a home for the first time, according to NAR.

“It’s ironic that we’re talking about when millennials are going to buy a home when they represent 30 percent of sales,” says Gregg Logan, managing director of RCLCO, an advisory group headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland.

The era of millennials is only starting.

In many ways, millennials are following the same pattern as previous generations. They are getting married, having kids, and buying a house in the suburbs. They are simply doing it later. In the 1970s, homebuyers typically spent about 2.6 years renting before buying their first homes; today, according to Zillow data, it is closer to six years.

“When they get to similar life stages, they are making similar decisions,” Logan says. In 2015, millennials were the head of 16 million of the nation’s 124.5 million households; by 2035, they will oversee 49.8 million households, “and thus reshape housing demand in profound ways,” according to the 2017 The State of the Nation’s Housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. As they begin having families, they are also buying homes: NAR’s 2017 study found that 49 percent of millennial homebuyers had at least one child, up from 43 percent in 2015.

But only 15 percent of millennial buyers bought in an urban area, according to that same study, down from 17 percent in 2016 and 21 percent in 2015.

“Five years ago, the assumption was that millennials would stay in the urban core, would continue to rent, and they wouldn’t move to a master-planned community,” says Suzanne Maddalon, vice president of marketing for Boston-based Freehold Communities, which develops residential communities in Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. “I don’t think that’s happened.”

Money appears to be the biggest issue holding millennials back. They are facing more than $1 trillion in student debt, according to some estimates. Forty-six percent of homebuyers under the age of 36 have student loan debt, with a median balance of $25,000, NAR reports. Skyrocketing rents and other costs have made it difficult for them to save money. The number of adults age 18 to 34 living in their parents’ homes increased to an all-time high of 35.6 percent in 2015, according to the latest American Community Survey performed by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“They’re not postponing [decisions], life has intervened,” says Steve Burch, senior vice president of Irvine, California–based John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which tracks markets.

Millennial Motives

As they grow older, millennials are demonstrating the same long-term interest in homeownership as past generations, analysts say. Sixty-eight percent of millennials look at their current home as a stepping stone to their next home, compared with 36 percent of the overall market, according to Bank of America’s recent Homebuyers Insights Report.

But, in some ways, millennials are acting differently than their predecessors. For one, they are not as interested in new homes. The Bank of America study found that millennials are more likely than older buyers to buy a fixer-upper than a new home. “They grew up watching [house] flipping shows,” said Anita Kramer, vice president of the ULI Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate, at a recent event in San Diego.

Millennials also have different priorities. A survey by SunTrust Mortgage found that more millennial first-time homebuyers’ decisions were motivated by a desire to have space for a dog (cited by 33 percent of respondents) than by a marriage or the birth of a child (cited by 25 percent and 19 percent, respectively; respondents could cite more than one motive in the survey). Accommodating a dog fell only slightly below the desire for more space and building equity as prime motivators for buying a home, the survey found.

Certain stereotypes about millennials are grounded in fact: they want walkable neighborhoods with a sense of community that are close to restaurants, shops, and authentic retail, such as an antique mall, analysts say. They like smaller, efficient spaces; sustainability and technology are top priorities.

The desire for urban amenities may be real, but that does not mean that millennials have to be in the heart of the big city. The largest growth in buying activity among people between the ages of 25 and 34 from 2010 to 2015 was in secondary cities like Riverside, California; San Antonio; and Orlando, according to RCLCO data.

Millennials are a “much more diverse group,” reflecting a wide variety of ethnicities and interests, notes Peter Dennehy, senior vice president of Meyers Research. They often want the best of both worlds—suburban and urban. “Developers should be paying more attention to quality infill developments built for affordability and lifestyle,” Dennehy says. What does not work for millennials are remote, car-focused suburban developments with no walkability, no amenities, and no lifestyle element, analysts say. Millennials “won’t accept a Levittown kind of idea,” Burch says. He believes the opportunity is in “surban” projects that bring an urban lifestyle to a suburban setting. (Burch’s firm even trademarked the term surban.) “We’ll be in a position of remaking the suburbs,” he says. “We can bring the best of urban areas to suburbs.”

Master Plans and Millennials

In Ontario, California, about 35 miles (56 km) outside Los Angeles, 43 percent of buyers in Brookfield Residential’s 124-acre (50 ha) New Haven development have been millennials, says John O’Brien, vice president of housing for Brookfield Residential Southern California. In some ways, the 2,500-unit, development, part of the 8,000-acre (3,200 ha) master-planned Ontario Ranch development, is exactly the type of outlying master-planned project that millennials were expected to avoid.

“We’re still a little surprised how much we’ve seen this type of buyer,” O’Brien said. “Until a few years ago, we would have thought half of that.”

But O’Brien says that millennials have responded to the community’s parks, swimming pools, wide variety of models, built-in gigabit internet service, and pricing, which ranges from the low $300,000s to the $500,000s. Brookfield also shifted its marketing to focus more on social media and virtual reality. “Millennials are the first ones to adapt to that stuff,” he says.

Boomer Staying Power

Millennials have been grabbing the headlines, but baby boomers remain a large part of the story. The very oldest boomers, who were born in 1946, are turning 72 this year, but they are maintaining their influence as homebuyers and owners. By 2019, almost 45 percent of U.S. households will be headed by someone over 55, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Like millennials, baby boomers, as they age, are acting differently than expected. “If any generation has demonstrated an extended capacity to surprise, it is the baby boomers, the so-called pig in the python of demographic studies,” ULI’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate® reported in 2017.

Today’s seniors are working longer, staying active, and waiting longer to make their senior housing decisions. The boomer story “truly only starts to kick in with force around age 80 these days,” ULI’s Emerging Trends 2018 report notes.

Many analysts predicted that boomers would leave their big homes in the suburbs once their kids moved out and they got tired of mowing lawns. And many cities, such as Philadelphia and Chicago, have seen a sharp uptick in downtown luxury condo sales to boomers moving to the city from outlying areas. But the big selloff in the suburbs has not happened, analysts say.

“The reality is that senior citizens are predominantly staying in their predominantly suburban or exurban communities,” Wendell Cox, a principal in Demograhia, a policy and research firm, concluded in a recent article on

As it is for millennials, money is a big issue for boomers. Many of them saw their savings depleted by the 2008 crash, and equity in their homes—often their largest asset—is only now returning to pre-downturn levels. “Many seem to believe that the stock market recovery and the return of average home prices to 2007 levels mean that baby boomers’ financial situation has turned out okay. It has not,” according to Emerging Trends. “A 2016 survey showed that 37 percent of boomers had less than $50,000 in savings to draw on.”

Instead of moving, many boomers are fixing up their homes, which will make them even more expensive for the next buyers. “The decision of millions of older households to age in place could also limit the supply of suburban homes available for sale to millennial households seeking to trade up,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies report concluded.

Senior Housing Strength

But the market is bullish on senior-focused housing. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the NAHB’s 55+ Housing Market Index hit its highest level since the inception of the index in 2008.

“There hasn’t been that much product geared toward active adult [built] in a long time,” Dennehy says.

Developers are turning to different housing concepts to meet the needs of this population. Adult communities are moving away from “the model of large Sun City,” Dennehy says. “They tend to be smaller concepts, mixed into all ages.”

In terms of amenities, “it’s a whole different world,” Dennehy says. Yoga, cooking classes, and farmers markets are the big draws; golf much less so. Nature trails are the new must-have, Burch notes. “I cannot overstate how important trails are to all groups,” he says.

A curated curriculum is key to any 55-plus project, says Haythem Dawlett, the principal in Legend Communities, which is focusing on the active-adult sector after years working on all-age communities.

“If you call it active adult, you have to have the activities,” Dawlett says. “What you’re selling is the lifestyle.”

Dawlett believes the “sweet spot” is age-targeted projects of about 1,400 to 1,500 homes, which are large enough to maintain amenities and community activities. Scale is the key; a community with fewer than 300 homes is hard to maintain and becomes “really inefficient,” he says. He also targets price points between $300,000 and $700,000—higher than those seen at many 55-plus communities. At those price points, “the margins really start to grow,” Dawlett says.

Mixed Generations

Dawlett is among the property executives who believe the future is in mixed-generation developments. As an example, he points to Rancho Mission Viejo, a master-planned development in southern California, where a gated 55-plus community with single-level houses is integrated into all-ages neighborhoods. The age-restricted neighborhood is separate and “tailored to a more grown-up, worldly perspective,” according to promotional materials, but residents also share many of the amenities of the overall community.

“Fifty-five-plus is very active and they do want to be among all generations,” Maddalon of Freehold Communities says. “I’ve heard more than once that it makes them feel younger.”

In Palm Springs, California, famed for its retirement communities, Freehold purchased an abandoned 97-acre (39 ha) golf course after the 2008 crash and re-created the site as an agrihood, with olive groves, trails, and modernist-style homes. Scheduled to open this fall, entry-level homes start at $300,000, targeting younger buyers, although many of the elements are designed to appeal to Palm Springs’ traditional older clientele, Maddalon says. A yoga center and community gardens appeal to both groups, she says.

In many ways, millennials and baby boomers are acting a lot alike, analysts say. They are working longer and spending more time working at home; flexibility is important to both. And they both like healthy living and the outdoors.

Both groups represent a specific opportunity, Dennehy says. “Developers should be paying more attention to quality infill developments built for affordability and lifestyle,” he says. What doesn’t work are car-oriented projects with no walkability, no amenities, and “no lifestyle upfront,” Dennehy says. “People have to be thoughtful about what they are doing.”

As millennials and baby boomers age, the need for authenticity, energy efficiency, and connected communities will only grow, Burch says. There is going to be a “lot more regeneration and a lot more reimagining of the suburbs,” he says. “A sense of community will be a much bigger deal, and will affect the way communities are laid out.”

Finding the specific solutions to meet the demand will be the challenge facing the industry in the years ahead, analysts agree.

“As we figure it out, it’s a great opportunity,” Logan says.