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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 22, 2012 9 years ago

Outdoor Oasis

A landscape architecture firm successfully battled regulations, and the elements, for its latest project.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Project: A landscape renovation of a home on Bird Key, along Sarasota Bay. Sarasota-based DWY Landscape Architects was hired to turn the outside of the home into an oasis for the owners, who live part time in Minnesota. “This was about creating a space for the owners,” says DWY founder David Young. “They wanted to spend as much time outdoors as possible.”

The project designed space for cooking, entertaining, dining and swimming. “It was meant to be a variety of things,” says Young. It cost $700,000.

Features: Clean lines, soft lights and water are themes of the project. There's a lap pool that fronts the bay, and outdoor grill space. “There are plenty of things that can keep the owners outside,” says Young.

Another feature is a wet wall on the far end of the space, designed with a garden on top. It separates the property from neighbors, and protects against winds from the north and breezes from the bay. “We were dealing with not only the spaces, but the microclimate for the space,” Young says.

The wet wall, he adds, “has a magical quality to it.”

Hurdles: One of the project's highlights, the 45-foot linear lap pool and spa, was a bureaucratic battle. The pool was designed for a spot in the back part of the yard, between the bay and the entertaining area. “We wanted it to be as fluid and continuous with the inner space as possible,” says Young.

But Sarasota city zoning officials initially rejected the pool, citing its height levels and proximity to the bay. Officials worried the pool would be a dangerous liability in a big storm, so they told Young it had to drop 30 inches lower. Going that low, however, would require steps, which would alter the project's aesthetic.

Solutions: Young was relentless in his appeal of the ruling and a belief that zoning officials misapplied the rules. Says Young: “We argued with them that we didn't need to build it that low.” Young ultimately won the battle, and the pool was built, tied to three feet of concrete. “It was just luck,” he says, “that we got with the right person after being told no several times.”

Company: Young founded DWY in 1999. It did mostly residential and commercial work until 2008, when it took on municipal and government clients in the downturn. In 2007 the firm had six employees, a figure that shrunk to just Young and a part-time employee in 2009. Revenues, though, doubled in 2010 and 2011, and the firm is now back to four employees.

Video: Amanda Heisey

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