By Lance Gurwell
Jeff Cobb, a resident of Vail, Colo., knows the value of teamwork. It’s evident in his traveling; the former resident of Birmingham, Ala., often travels back there, in a Citation I he owns with four other men. On a larger scale, it’s evident in his business.
About six years ago, when Cobb decided he wanted a less hectic lifestyle for his family, he sold the family’s multi-state movie theater business in the southeast and headed west, purchasing a home near Vail, from homebuilder Scott Schmidt.
A friendship bloomed, and in May 2000 the men formed MAJACK Development to build high-quality, single-family residences in the resort communities near Vail and Big Sky, Mont. When Cobb and Schmidt met, Schmidt was running Schmidt Construction, which was already building custom homes in the upscale resort communities of Arrowhead and Cordillera, near Vail.
“Jeff bought a house at Arrowhead when he moved from Alabama,” Schmidt said. “Then, my brother decided to go into the car business, and my dad sort of helped him. I was still in the construction business; Jeff and I talked and decided maybe we ought to try doing something bigger and better.”
The duo purchased a pair of lots in Red Canyon Estates in Vail Valley, and built custom homes on them, selling one to a retired NFL player and one to a renowned NASCAR driver. Another home is under construction at Red Sky Ranch, which is about 15 minutes from Beaver Creek ski area, 25 minutes from Vail, and 20 minutes from Eagle County Airport (EGE). Red Sky Ranch encompasses more than 700 acres and is one of the most sought-after residential golf communities in the Rocky Mountains. It features two world-class golf courses, one designed by Greg Norman and the other by Tom Fazio. Homes in the development incorporate architectural styles that complement the unique alpine terrain.
MAJACK, an acronym from the first letters of the first name of the owners’ children, started building homes in the exclusive Yellowstone Club near Bozeman, Mont., about three years ago. It, too, is a private ski and golf community, located about 80 miles from Yellowstone National Park, founded in 2000 by Tim and Edra Blixseth at Big Sky.
Cobb and Schmidt are perfectly paired; Cobb is an expert in acquisitions and financing, while Schmidt brings three generations of construction experience to the partnership. Schmidt recalls that the family business began with his grandfather, Max, in the early fifties, in Illinois.
“When I was five years old they took me to the jobsites; they kept me busy pounding nails,” he said. “I basically worked in the business in summers during high school and in college when I was off. I worked on the jobsites, doing everything from framing to electrical work-basically the whole gamut of the construction process.”
Even so, Schmidt said he had no intention of going into the construction business; instead he owned the Hong Kong Café in Vail for six years. But around 1990, he saw that the construction business was looking up, so he sold his restaurant and got back into the home-building arena.
“At that time, my father and brother moved out here, and we built maybe a half-dozen houses or so, on a fairly small scale,” Schmidt said. “One of our houses in Cordillera was featured in Ski Magazine, and was ranked one of the best ski area homes by them that year.”
MAJACK Development completed its first project at the Yellowstone Club three years ago. Dream Catcher was named after a nearby ski run. About six months ago, they started construction on a second development, American Spirit, at the Yellowstone Club. With more than 8,000 square feet, it has six bedrooms, nine baths, a three-car garage and ski-in ski-out access.
It also has a gourmet kitchen, wet bar and wine cellar, media and recreation rooms, and a private deck off the master suite. There are several other decks on the home, and a patio featuring a hot tub. Additionally, the home has a separate guest suite, and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountain peaks and ridges. To the north, a large group of trees imbues a sense of serenity, while a meadow to the southeast opens to expansive views of the Madison and Gallatin mountain ranges.
Don Eggers designed both of the MAJACK projects in Yellowstone Club, the first two homes they did in Red Canyon and a home MAJACK is building at Red Sky Ranch in Wolcott. Eggers, who founded Eggers Architecture in 1999, has been working with MAJACK since shortly after that company was formed.
Prior to forming his company, Eggers worked for an architecture and engineering firm in Denver; the company, Martin Design, also had an engineering office in the Vail Valley.
“They had a client come to them about doing a large home for them in Bachelor Gulch,” recalled Eggers. “I had talked to the owner about getting a list of the architects they had worked with, because I wanted to move to the mountains; at that point, they decided to open an architecture branch in the Vail Valley.”
Eggers explained that when that company lost some of their engineering clients who were architects because they were now competing with them, he wasn’t willing to go back to Denver, where he had designed apartment complexes and custom homes for developers, so he went out on his own. His new business specializes in log and mountain homes that fit the wilderness backdrop in which they’re built.
“I was introduced to Jeff and Scott through Pioneer Log Homes, which was a company I’d been doing some other work with,” Eggers said. “Scott had worked with them on a home up in Cordillera that another architect had done. When they came back to Pioneer about doing more log work in the Vail Valley, they made the introduction; we’ve been working together since then.”
Eggers says he now has three projects in the Yellowstone Club, two with MAJACK and one as a result of those. He has designed homes throughout Colorado.
“Most of them have been custom or spec homes, in Beaver Creek, Bachelor Gulch and Cordillera,” Eggers said.
He has also done work in Grand Lake, Kremmling and Breckenridge.
“Most of them are fairly large custom or spec homes that are either timber or log style homes,” he said.
While not a partner in MAJACK, Eggers said he’s part of the team, and that teamwork is extremely important in the design and construction of custom homes that cost in the millions of dollars.
“By working with MAJACK as an architect and a builder, which MAJACK is also, at the front end, setting up the teamwork, we establish the goals of the project as far as what we want to build, the style of it, targets as far as budget and sales, and finishes on the inside,” Eggers said. “By creating kind of a holistic approach to the project, we set all the parameters up front; that eliminates all of the guesswork of bringing in people at different times during the process, so everybody’s on that same page from the very beginning.”
Eggers also consults with MAJACK on interior finishes, and helps set the general tone of the design.
“They will work with an interior designer to pick the specific materials,” he said. “We’ll determine if we want a wood or plaster ceiling and we’ll probably pick what type of wood, and then they’ll work with an interior designer on the stains or the paint colors, trim colors and carpet. Sometimes I get very involved; at other times they have an interior designer from day one that is saying, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ It goes back to that teamwork aspect of working through that from the first day.”
Eggers said it’s very important that the design of a home blend into its natural surroundings, and that he often designs a home to enhance features in the landscape, such as the homes at Red Canyon.
“Even though Jeff and Scott are doing spec homes, it’s very important to treat each site as a custom site, and design the house to fit it,” Eggers said. “The stucco home in Red Canyon is probably the best example of that. There’s a high bluff behind the house; we actually shaped the house around that curve so it fits the hillside between the hill and the pond out front.”
American Spirit, which is now being framed, again will feature the rugged Montana spirit.
“American Spirit has, again, a stone base to it,” Eggers said. “Then, it has a combination of horizontal log siding and vertical wood siding. The reason for that is we’ve built into the hillside, so we wanted the house to appear as if it sits on a stone foundation.”
Landscaping around the homes is as critical as the home’s design, Eggers said. He’ll do the initial site planning, and then work with a landscape architect to “fine tune the plans.”
“I typically do the general site design,” he said.
Every development MAJACK has worked on has specific design guidelines, setting the criteria for building heights, materials and colors, which are established by the development’s owner.
“What it does is establish some continuity as far as the style of the house, but it also sets up guidelines so that neighboring homes don’t obstruct views, and it really helps maintain the property values of the project,” Eggers said.
Because some of the homes are situated on or near golf courses, they’re especially designed with views in mind.
“At Yellowstone, we’re on the mountain side, not the golf course side,” Eggers said. “At the one at Red Sky Ranch in Wolcott, we sited the house so it overlooks the green on the golf course. Typically, the golf courses are done first and then we’ll open up windows to take advantage of views either across the golf course or to a green, or down the golf course, and work with the openness that the fairways provide us for views.”
For more information, visit [http://www.majackdevelopment.com/], or call 970-926-0986. You can visit the Yellowstone Club at [http://www.theyellowstoneclub.com/]. Don Eggers can be reached at 970-926-8126.