Douglas Boone, a homebuilder and developer who helped bring a “New Urbanism” style of development to the Charlotte area, died Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. He was 66.
Mr. Boone was a longtime executive with Charlotte development firm John Crosland Co. and later the developer of the New Neighborhood in Old Davidson, a mix of single-family homes, townhomes, and retail spaces around St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson. That project inspired an angry anti-development backlash in Davidson when it was up for approval in 1998, but has since won acclaim and awards for breaking the mold of suburban cul-de-sac development.
“He deserves our admiration and our respect,” said former Davidson Commissioner Margo Williams, who was on the town board that approved the 82-acre New Neighborhood project. “He loved Davidson, and that has just played out in that wonderful neighborhood, which is his legacy.”
Born Sept. 19, 1945 in Detroit, Mich., he was the son of the late Harold L. Boone and Helen Kowalski Boone.
He attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, and law. He spent 22 years (1974-1995) with the John Crosland Co., eventually rising to the position of president of Crosland Land Co, a division of Crosland Group.
While at Crosland, he was involved in acquisition and development of about 60 of Charlotte’s best-known neighborhoods. He served as president of the Charlotte Homebuilders Assoc. in 1985 and also worked on various government committees related to all aspects of the homebuilding industry, the environment and utility issues.
In 1996, he formed Boone Communities, and in the following 12 years developed three neighborhoods in the Charlotte area, as well as consulting with landowners and builders. Boone Communities also advised large land owners on land use and provided expert witness and consulting to land owner attorneys in road right-of-way condemnation cases.
His greatest accomplishment was development of the “New Neighborhood in Old Davidson” which includes St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.
That project came amid a boom in growth in the Charlotte region, and helped Davidson forge a different path from surrounding communities. While most residential development in the 1990s and 2000s followed a pattern of large subdivisions of single-family homes, the St. Alban’s neighborhood was planned with a combination of single-family houses, town homes, a major civic use (the church) and small retail spaces.
The neighborhood caused big stir when it came before the Davidson Town Board in 1998-99, spurring formation of a group whose slogan was “Love Lives Not Land,” recalls former Davidson Mayor Randy Kincaid.
Opponents, including those in an upscale neighborhood across Concord Road, argued that the development would destroy the quality of life in Davidson with its mix of uses. The Town Board stood firm in support of the plan, although a neighborhood store was dropped from the plan.
“I was a great admirer of his,” Mr. Kincaid said Sunday. “I think the New Neighborhood is a remarkable place and it’s provided a home to a lot of people, and they all seem to love living there. And it’s put Davidson on the map.”
A parade of planners and developers has visited Davidson to study the project since its completion. The neighborhood also has been popular among transplants, retirees and young families.
One of the measures of the success of a project like Mr. Boone’s Davidson development is whether a strong community emerges from it. In 2007, the St. Alban’s neighborhood won an award as the best neighborhood of its size in North Carolina. (See Oct. 12, 2012, “10 years after battle, St. Alban’s neighborhood wins acclaim.”
The neighborhood has an active homeowners’ association, a regular newsletter and a variety of clubs and activities.
“Doug Boone set the standard for the right kind of developer Davidson needed as it faced decisions about how to manage the explosive growth in the late 1990s,” said former Davidson town planner Kris Krider, now a planner in Kannapolis. “He brought a lust for detail, a great sense of placemaking and development experience.”
Mr. Boone not only developed the neighborhood, he made his home there.
What sets the St. Alban’s neighborhood apart is its combination of dense residential development with open spaces and small parks. In a January article about problems with homeowners associations, DavidsonNews.net writer Chip Dawson said:
“Parks are everywhere, trash cans are hidden, few cars are on the streets and residents you meet express great pride of place. Started in 1998 by Davidson developer Doug Boone, it quickly evolved into a tight-knit neighborhood of bridge clubs, book groups and a dinner group that draws dozens of people to area restaurants each month. … . In Old Davidson all the parks, 13 acres of them, are town parks managed by the Town of Davidson. They are accessible to everyone. They were built by the developer but turned over to the Town to complete the Davidson master plan for parks in that area. Residents give most of the credit to Mr. Boone—a dedicated visionary—citing his close attention to detail and steady effort to make sure everything worked.”
In an interview for that January article, Mr. Boone said good design is the key to a successful development: “Architecture starts the process. If it’s attractive, values stay high.” To help get the design right, he hosted a community design workshop, or charrette, and invited residents and local elected officials.
Said Mr. Krider: “He has forever left us his brilliant solution for the elusive challenge we still face, how to create walkable neighborhoods that evolve into great communities. One day, 40 or so years from now, I imagine St. Alban’s (or simply ‘Boone’ as we called it in Town Hall) will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. He will be sadly missed but his legacy will ripen with age.”
Ms. Williams said Mr. Boone embraced the town’s vision for open space by incorporating parks and other open space that amounted to nearly 30 percent of the project. “Doug called this is everybody’s shared backyard,” she said. “He said when you live close to each other, you need to have space that is green and beautiful.”
Mr. Boone is survived by his children; Aaron Boone (Jacqueline), Alan Boone (Stacey), Richard Boone, Bill Boone and Elizabeth Boone (Devin Gray); grandchildren, Ana and Jessa Boone, Colin Fowler and Oliver Gray; sister, Marsha Taylor (Rick); niece, Kelley Leach (Jim) and their children, Hayden, McKenzie and Eli and very dear friend, Nancy Slagle.
A memorial service is planned Friday Aug. 10, 11 a.m., at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. The family will greet friends following the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Our Towns Habitat, 20310 N Main Street, Cornelius, NC 28031 or Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, Neb. 68410
Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home & Cremation Service is assisting the family.
Friends may offer condolences to the family at www.raymerfh.com