J. Neal is building a beach house! In the fall of 2014, Jason Neal and his partner, Holly, invested in a very interesting property in Cape May, NJ – a designated historic district with rigorous design standards requiring review and board approvals from the city for any development. The property is in the heart of Cape May, and literally a five minute walk to the beach. However, for what amenity is afforded, this is a non-conforming site that had a non-conforming structure upon it, meaning that it was a particularly challenging site to build anything on, which is just the type of challenge we were up for!
To date, J. Neal Design has successfully proposed a design we were personally happy with, which passed through historic review in the first go ‘round with much praise, integrated all new FEMA regulations and successfully acquired 5 zoning variances to allow for development of the property. This entire process; completed within five months took less than 2/3s the time initially anticipated.
Some of our goals for this project – aside from having a cool beach house to retreat to and work from – were to really explore the options of being our own developer and to go through a design-build process. Fortunately we were able to find a fantastic local General Contractor – Fred Xenidis of FX Construction & Design – to work with us from the beginning. Further, we wanted to create a comfortable home centered on sustainable and inclusive design principles. Initially we had hoped to incorporate some of the original structure into our design; unfortunately, factoring in our historic, zoning, and FEMA requirements for new development, this just wasn’t feasible. So to offset waste we decided to invest more considered planning into the demo of the existing structure in order to salvage and reclaim as much of the existing material as possible. In fact Jason and a group of close friends went to the Cape on weekends to carefully dismantle the structure (as well as salvage some of the nifty furniture the previous owners left behind)! By the end of this process enough Douglas Fir was yielded from deconstruction to produce all the new flooring, trim, shelving, and even some custom furniture for the finished home!
Overall this has been both a challenging and rewarding process with many lessons learned. It was an eye opening experience to not only face the expected challenges that go along with our professional role, but to become intimately acquainted with the challenges of being a client: balancing a practical budget, prioritizing goals and expectations in conjunction with the burden of unforeseen obstacles, finding and coordinating with a contractor we personally felt comfortable with, finalizing finish selections, etc. Finally, this process has truly bolstered our confidence as design professionals. Despite the many perceived obstacles for developing this site we were able to do so more quickly than expected, consistently meeting goals, and sometimes even exceeding our own expectations. Overall, this has afforded us a stronger professional voice and platform in the charming city of Cape May, NJ and beyond.
We are so excited to have this project rolling along smoothly, and really look forward to having our first company retreat to the beach by the end of summer 2015!
The very first site visit!
Work until the job is done!