Young guns

by Joe Stumpe | photography by Brian Giammasi

Recent years have been tough on Wichita's homebuilders. So maybe it takes somebody with fresh ideas and a short memory to succeed in the business. In fact, Cory Shackelford is counting on it.

Shackelford put together a team of builders who are, like him, in their 30s to help turn a former wheat field on the southeast edge of Wichita into an upscale development called Cambria.

I hand-selected these builders to be long-term partners, Shackelford, who's the project developer as well as a builder himself, said. They're talented and smart and know what they're doing.

Along with 35-year-old Shackelford, the group includes Shaun Isham, 36, of Isham Builders; Matt Peters, 30, of Peters Construction; and Miles Millspaugh, 31, of Tri-M Construction. Tim Marchand, 36, of Coldwell Bankers is the on-site real estate agent.

The home sites at Cambria average three quarters of an acre, providing owners plenty of private backyard space.

What they're doing in Cambria seems to be gaining momentum. Shackelford acquired the property in 2007 and laid out 40 three-quarter acre lots. He broke ground on the first home in the spring of 2009. Today, five homes are sold or occupied and five more are available or under construction, with several more lots sold.

Homes in the development start in the high $300,000s, with most costing $400,000 to $700,000. For that kind of money, people expect a lot, and Cambria's builders are trying to deliver it. All feature exteriors of natural stone and brick, spacious layouts, decks and walk-out basements. They're designed to be efficient and exploit all the latest technology. After that, Shackelford said, Every one is very unique. I think that's part of the draw.

Shackelford said he sensed a pent-up demand in Wichita for nicer new homes. He chose the Cambria property because it offered a rural setting with city services and utilities that's just minutes from many attractions in east Wichita. The development sits off 143rd street between Pawnee and Harry.

As Shackelford pointed out some of the natural features of the landscape including a creek and border of trees two geese flew by and landed in one of several ponds on the property. There's not a lot of development around it, he said.

Shackelford said he drew up the lots with an idea to providing privacy. People say, I want my backyard not to have somebody living in it, he said. Many lots run back to the creek or a hedgerow.

Although the group of builders is young, Shackelford said they know the value that homebuyers, bankers and other parties in the business put on experience.

You've got to pay your dues, in some respects, he said.

The Cambria builders can point potential buyers to their previous work in Equestrian Estates, Bridgefield, Remington Place, Crescent Lakes and Bel Aire's Central Park, among other developments.

They were also happy to welcome Tom Kemp, of Kemp Custom Homes, who Shackelford calls the cagey veteran of the group. We're really fortunate to have somebody like him.

For his part, Shackelford partners with his father, Larry, who's been building homes since the 1970s. That's 30-plus years of wisdom to extract, Cory said.

Larry, who was working on the portico to one home in Cambria, paused to share the advice he'd given his son.

It's something you've got to enjoy because it's not always easy, he said. Between the economy, clients and the weather, it takes a lot to go from a bare field to something like this.

That's what's happening at Cambria. To some extent, the builders compete with one another for potential customers. But Shackelford said they also work together, knowing they'll succeed easier as a group than with a go- it-alone attitude.

We took it from a wheat field to a development that's selling lots, he said. Given the marketplace, that's pretty good. Even more exciting to me is that people (who bought homes) are now saying, This was a great decision.

I'd really like to be somebody who does this for a long time.
Plaza Real Estate - New Homes
LCS Enterprises, Inc.
Isham Builders, Inc.

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