Sapphire Valley and Big Canoe
Two particular projects in the early 1970s helped shape the nature of the engineering practice in the field of large-scale residential communities: Sapphire Valley and Big Canoe.
Fortunately for the new firm, Craig Cranston had an old client and friend in Eugene M. Howerdd, Jr., whose family owned the Sapphire Valley development in western North Carolina near Cashiers. Gene Howerdd put Baldwin & Cranston in touch with a potential purchaser of the project, for whom Cranston conceived a land use plan and economic model for the 6,800-acre tract. Although the purchaser lost interest in the property, subsequent buyers did use the plan, which figured prominently in the continued development of the property through the early 1980s.
This project also spawned the need for a satellite office of the firm in Cashiers. Tom Robertson started here as the field office supervisor while employed as a college co-op student with the company. The branch continued to operate for 25 years and eventually furnished engineering design and surveying services for most of the upscale second-home mountain communities in the region.
Cranston also took the talents of the firm to the mountains of North Georgia, where Cousins Properties was considering establishing a mountain resort following the lead of Gene Howerdd, who by this time was employed by Cousins as head of its Recreational Properties Division. This community of 10,000 acres became known as Big Canoe. From its founding it was a conservation subdivision, pioneering the concept of low impact development many years before these now-popular terms were even coined. Baldwin and Cranston established a field office at this project site to facilitate the daily work, with surveying parties and field engineers. Big Canoe has continued to be a premier client of the firm as the community approaches its fortieth birthday.
In time these projects would become two of the largest second home developments in Georgia and North Carolina and would cause the firm to grow quickly from its humble beginnings to over 100 employees by 1972.