Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homebuilder at end of 25-year run with Stonebridge Ranch - Allen American

Submitted Photo � Bill, Bob and Steve Darling recently closed on their company�s final home at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney. The brothers started Darling Homes there in 1987 (pictured), and have since built more than 2,000 homes at the now nationally-recognized master-planned development.

It's the end of an era.

Dallas-based homebuilder Darling Homes has closed on its final home in Stonebridge Ranch, one of McKinney's best-known master-planned communities, ending a 25-year run during which it built more than 2,000 homes.

"Stonebridge Ranch holds a great deal of sentimental value for us because the project actually served as a catalyst for me and my two brothers to start our company," said Bob Darling, executive vice president of Darling Homes. "For the first five years of our business, Stonebridge is where we spent all our time, learning and perfecting our homebuilding craft as a team."

Bob and his brothers Steve, co-executive vice president, and Bill, chairman and CEO, started Darling Homes in 1987. Steve and Bill had been in DFW for 10 years already, and had their own custom building and commercial real-estate business, respectively.

Bob, a custom builder in Tucson, Ariz., at the time, moved to the area for a reuniting of sorts. Growing up with a homebuilder father - sweeping houses as kids, learning carpentry and plumping as they got older - the Darling brothers knew the business.

And they saw Stonebridge Ranch as the ideal starting point for their newly-formed family team.

"We saw the vision that they had and that it would be a neat, new community for the Dallas area," Bob said. "We just thought that right straight up [U.S. Highway 75] was going to be a hot corridor as Dallas was expanding north, we saw the opportunity, and we just thought we couldn't pass it up."

They built 44 homes their first year, many of which were patio homes. At their peak, Darling was selling 120 homes a year at Stonebridge Ranch, ranging in price from $250,000 to $1 million.

Darling Homes built for eight phases in Quail Creek, four phases in Falcon Creek, three phases in Eagle Creek, and will soon finish in Wren Creek, just four of more than 30 neighborhoods at Stonebridge Ranch.

And the company's name spread beyond McKinney. Five years into its Stonebridge stake, Darling began building in Frisco, Allen, Carrollton, Las Colinas and Prosper. In the late 1990s, it became a featured builder for The Woodlands, one of Houston's premier master-planned developments, and opened business at three other locations in Texas' largest city.

"It starts with the culture of the company," said Mike Carter, Darling Homes vice president of marketing. "The Darlings have done a great job of bringing the right people together...and having a team of people who can make sure our customers are satisfied, who are building in the best communities out there."

Though it builds only in the Dallas and Houston areas, Darling Homes is ranked 59th among the Top 100 U.S. homebuilders, Carter said. The company builds move-up homes for young professionals, patio homes for those hoping to downsize, and mansions for full families - each of which is featured at Stonebridge Ranch.

Carter said the Darlings' affinity the communities in which they build and their homes' "architectural authenticity" are reasons for the company's aggressive growth.

"We're not about just building a big mansion, it's about building something that looks right and is balanced - having plans that live as well as they look," he said. "When people walk through a Darling home, our consumer research tells us, it feels different. They sense a different level of quality."

The company established that quality over the years, blending architectural styles popularized in D-FW hot spots like the M Streets and Highland Park. The Darlings take pride in their homes' variety and ingenuity.

Bob said they aim to "deliver the best product at the best price" - a mission that hasn't changed in 25 years - but being where they work is just as important. Bob often works with the Boys and Girls Club, Bill and his wife run ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship, and Steve's involved with Habitat for Humanity.

They all live in McKinney, two at Stonebridge Ranch. Phase II of Darling Homes at Tucker Hill starts this month, with 20 homes under construction, as the company looks to expand around the city where it started - the onset of another era, perhaps.

"McKinney's a real special place, and Stonebridge Ranch has just added to that special legacy," Bob said. "McKinney's been real good to us, and we think we've been pretty good to McKinney."

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