Local ordinance decreed Desert Palisades as the last hillside residential community to be constructed in Palm Springs, California, and it’s going to be spectacular! Situated along the storied, sun-drenched landscape of Chino Canyon, this 110-lot enclave is poised to become the new model for extraordinary, modern architectural vision. Each home site is appointed to preserve the natural contours of the land, engage with the stunning, boulderstrewn topography and maximize views that stretch from the San Jacinto Mountains to the Salton Sea. Unlike the typical, master-planned, cookie-cutter development, Desert Palisades is the first community that will uphold the ideals that represent the very best in midcentury and contemporary architecture in Palm Springs. Residents are encouraged to enlist the world’s top architects to customize their homes while adhering to a set of forward thinking, resource-efficient, environmentally sensitive community guidelines.
Due to a City of Palm Springs ordinance that prohibits the use of asphalt in the Chino Canyon area, pavers were considered as the best alternative for the development. To complement the world-class homes constructed in Desert Palisades, the architectural and development team sought a unique option for the streets—specifically a multi-piece paver pattern that matched both the beauty of the canyon and the community’s modern architectural vision.
“We chose Belgard® for the Desert Palisades project because of the quality, size, pattern and color sections available that would blend with the natural environment,” said Rob Parker, PLA, Design Principal for RGA Landscape Architects. “In addition, we wanted a paver that had a finish consistent with the quality that is expected in a development of custom homes. Other manufacturers didn’t compare when shown to our clients. In a side-by-side test, the difference was notable.”
The pavers needed to be sturdy enough to handle the heavy-duty equipment rolling through during the multi-year construction phase. The Dimensions pavers fit the bill due to the product’s combination of amazing. design versatility, 3 1/8” (80MM) thickness for vehicular traffic and solid durability. All units are based on 3” dimensional increments and the four sizes (12″ x 12″, 6″ x 12″, 6″ x 9″, 6″ x 6″) to create a one-of-a-kind pattern. In addition, three colors (60% Elk Mountain; 20% Toscana; 20% Bella) were chosen to blend with the serene canyon setting. The tans and browns matched the boulders and sand, while greens were added to highlight the mountainscape and sagebrush. Although the challenge was daunting, the Belgard team stepped up to make sure the job met the specifications of the developer, Weston Investments.
“We have two miles of road, and our blend required three separate colors in four different sizes. So delivering 12 different pallets of pavers, two to three semi-truck loads per day, for eight straight months was a fantastic feat of production. Belgard performed brilliantly for us.”
Charissa Farley, whose company Farley Pavers executed the paver installation, commented further on the choice of Belgard.
“Belgard products feature more natural-looking and longer-lasting colors,” said Farley. “When I use Belgard, I often feel like I’m using local aggregates that accentuate natural colors just as the European masons did when building many of the castles and architectural masterpieces. The colors used for Desert Palisades reflect the beauty of the area and actually change with the light at different times of day to match the diversity of color in the natural landscape.”
While the project had the potential to be exquisite, it faced a wide variety challenges that took cooperation from the entire team to overcome.
“The development featured a unique construction site on a rocky hillside with sensitive construction constraints,” explained Tom Lynch, Construction Manager, MSA Consulting. “Together, Belgard along with Farley Pavers and the Desert Palisades team worked hand-in-hand to develop logistics plans that allowed for seamless construction. Belgard was essential to the project’s success from design through construction.”
Additional issues for the project team included an aggressive schedule compounded by EPAmandated construction breaks during each month to protect endangered bighorn sheep indigenous to the area. As installation neared, Farley Pavers geared up for the challenge of a complicated paver pattern and aggressive construction schedule. However, as a local company based near Palm Springs, the team realized the importance of the project and approached it as a labor of love.
“Our entire team was passionate about this project, and we truly felt like we were creating a work of art,” stated Charissa Farley. “My installers had to pull the proportions off the trucks and arrange each to fit the pattern and lay them by hand. They worked long, hard days to make this happen and meet the deadline. The team from Belgard, my salesmen and my installation team poured their heart and soul into this project, and part of their lives were absorbed into these streets.”
“I must say, I have not been involved in a project that featured a more unique, innovative design,” added Jeff Bal, Belgard Vice President of Sales, California/Nevada. “And the entire project was a model of collaboration between the developer, civil engineer, architect, contractor and installer. The entire group came together utilizing value engineering options that supported the integrity of the design and facilitated an efficient project flow.”
Prior to the delivery of the first paver, Belgard worked with the developer and contractor to create an overall, long-term maintenance plan to eventually turn over to the Desert Palisades Homeowner’s Association. “The plan covered a variety of areas such as cleaning, maintenance and best practices,” explained Bal. “Not only will it be very useful in future budgeting for the HOA, but it will also help to save millions of dollars over the estimated life cycle of the pavers.”
As a testament to the importance of the development and the excitement it has generated, over 90,000 people attended Modernism Weekend in Palm Springs to celebrate the Desert Palisades which opened in February of 2017. As home construction continues, it will take its place as an iconic development in the desert.
Where pavers may not have been considered for challenging desert projects such as this in the past, Paul Sepulveda, Director of Design Services at MSA Consulting thinks the product’s performance in Desert Palisades will definitely influence further developments in the Coachella Valley. “Desert Palisades proved that a boulderladen, alluvial-type project in the Coachella Valley foothills can successfully be graded with minimal impact to the site,” he said. “The site was severely constrained from an environmental standpoint limiting maneuverability, means and methods, and time-allowed for grading operations. Successfully meeting the challenge required a confident developer with a vision working with a creative engineer and a very skillful grading contractor with the right equipment. Sites of this type are extremely limited in the western part of the valley and may never be available again, but as development moves east, the possibilities for similar sites fully exist.”