Home Town Builders
Old Town Design Group transforms Carmel neighborhoods
By Stephanie Miller
“Outstanding Locations, Timeless Designs” - this rubric in action elevated Old Town Design Group from new unsettling neighbor to established well-respected resident just months after presenting their first model home in one of the city’s oldest sections. By securing obscure pockets of raw land and replacing aged structures with lively homes, partners Jeff Langston and Justin Moffett steadily transformed Carmel’s core community from retired to inspired.
Agents of Change
Born and raised in same the neighborhoods they are sprinkling with indelible charm, the pair share a passion for community, camaraderie and investing with the goal of making their hometown a great place to live, work and play. “We started building in the heart of downtown Carmel during the recession in 2009,” says Justin, CEO of Old Town Company, the land development and commercial property division. “Due to the downturn, we didn’t have work and figured we had nothing to lose.” The younger member of the team, just starting his career and a family, Justin expresses appreciation for his wife who was very patient with all of the struggles of launching the new business in tough times.
As a successful home builder/remodeler, Jeff Langston, CEO of Old Town Design Group and owner of Heartwood Custom Homes, was feeling the pain of the recession but hesitated to venture into a new scope he had been considering. “I wanted to do something in the core of Carmel to help bring people back to downtown living, but did not want to do a one-off and take the risk,” reflects Jeff. “My brother introduced me to Justin who had tied up two pockets of property that were large enough to build custom homes and create an upscale cottage-style community.”
Blackwell Park, located at 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street, and Cobblestone, along the Monon at 136th Street, was the start of a company that would grow to revitalize tired neighborhoods at a time when it was becoming acceptable to invest in downtown Carmel. Initially, some residents reacted negatively to the new developments as the agents of change swept into settled areas, demolishing, refurbishing and building new structures. Justin contends that someone was going to change the face of these neighborhoods, but unlike national competitors, as a local business their reputation is on the line and positive results matter. “It is my neighborhood too. My parents and grandparents live on the same streets where we are building homes,” says Justin. “We respect all opinions and go above and beyond to be good neighbors.”
Fit versus Fight
The difference between Old Town Design Group and everyone else is what has attracted more than 250 new homeowners since its inception in November of 2009. “We are all about building relationships and community in addition to building classic, innovative homes. Most important, we listen to our clients and give them exactly what they want,” explains Liz Yust, director of sales and marketing. Starting with an inspiration plan, future homeowners can select the specific features that fit their needs or choose to start from a blank canvas. “We help them find the right place for a new home that fits their budget. And we work with clients on every detail from concept to completion and beyond.”
Since setting the trend for craftsman-style homes influenced by east coast architecture, Old Town Design Group has expanded outside of Carmel’s old town to other neighborhoods in key locations. Jeff credits his wife, Wendy, a native of Connecticut and owner of interior design partner, Everything Home, for helping imagine and implement a coastally influenced blueprint that would “fit versus fight” existing traditional Midwestern architectural design.
Justin says groundbreaking home styles and highly visible signage contributed to increasing their brand recognition. “We had unique early success by bringing an original open-concept cottage home product to the market. Due to our location, people saw our green signs over and over again.”
Initially, Old Town Design Group focused on residential developments, but paid close attention to city leaders, aware of the strategic plan to redevelop Carmel’s core. “We were interested in learning how we can help make that connectivity between city center, the arts and design district and where people work, as well as how individuals or families want to live and what they are willing to live in,” explains Jeff.
As lifestyles and communities have evolved, the partners have been flexible enough to adapt, recently restructuring their company and business model, while maintaining their mission of pursuing projects that enrich the lives of those who live in or visit Carmel. Focusing objectively on strengths, weaknesses and experience, Carmel-based The Strategy Forums helped Old Town Design Group analyze their business plan and prepare for future growth, setting up two divisions, development and residential.
“It’s not easy to hear that you may not be in the correct position,” Justin admits. “However, dreaming up new projects is where I thrive.” Heading Old Town Company positions the operation to do more land and commercial development as well get involved in mixed-use projects in Carmel’s urban core, such as for-sale condos and retail space. Jeff, who has a strong finance background, concentrates on homebuilding and customer experience.
“Because we are custom, we don’t try to force people into a certain box,” Jeff asserts. “A customer may like a model but the floor plan needs adjustments. If we see common modifications and notice a trend, we will incorporate fresh ideas to create value for our customers. Rustic interior beams, shiplap and barn doors are all huge things right now.”
“Our owners value company culture and the people that work for the business, and it’s obvious they care deeply about the community. This caring nature spills over to the way the client feels,” says Liz. And it spills over to those in need through their contributions to The Orchard Project which helps provide housing to disadvantaged families locally in Carmel and globally in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In addition, the company offers a college scholarship to a graduating high school student planning to study a career in construction industry.
As businessmen, Jeff and Justin actively pursue real estate investments that offer respectable financial returns, even paying a premium price if necessary to secure an ideal location. Yet, their mission is clear; the true reward for these gentlemen is in working collaboratively with clients to create exceptional neighborhoods and sharing complementary goals with city leaders to help their community solve problems in ways that makes Carmel a better place for humanity each and every day.