50th Anniversary Golden Nugget of the Week: Jigsaw Puzzle

By Richard Burke
50th Anniversary History Subcommittee

Have you ever assembled a 1,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle? How about one with 4,500 pieces. That was the formidable challenge faced by the two landscape architects in Branigar’s headquarters on Abercorn Street. Staffed by Dick Magnuson, VP Planning/Southeast and fellow landscape architect, Bill Dempsey, the charge was to “fit” 4,500 individual homesites onto an otherwise blank canvas, and to do it in a way that not only preserved the character and quality of the natural elements, but built upon them to enrich the beauty and livability of the community.  

Dick, with a B.A. in Landscape Architecture from The Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard, had worked on The Landings from the very beginning. His first assignment during the nine years he spent as a Senior Associate at Sasaki in Boston was “a 5,000-acre housing project on Skidaway Island.” Dick came to Branigar full-time in 1977.

Bill earned two Master’s Degrees, one in Landscape Architecture at the University of Georgia and another in Urban Planning at Georgia Tech. He joined Branigar in 1983, was heavily involved with Dick in planning Palmetto, Oak Ridge. and Deer Creek, and was the sole planner for Moon River. Bill and his wife Jennifer have been Landings residents for the past 20 years.

Here are some of the issues they faced: How many homesites can the land comfortably accommodate? What’s the right mix of single-family lots, patio-lots and townhomes? What land “pods” are best suited to each housing type? How can homesites be arranged to maximize amenity views without overcrowding a single streetscape (marsh, golf, lagoon, woodlands)? What road network would be best for interconnecting the various neighborhoods, without generating unwelcome levels of traffic in any one of them? And how best to protect the tree cover and natural beauty that are fundamental parts of the community’s environment and lifestyle?

Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, no two Landings homesites are exactly the same and getting them all in exactly the right place takes talent, patience, and some “trial and error.” But if precisely arranged by talented and creative planners, those 4,500 pieces combine to form the “whole” we enjoy today and which rightly earned us the Urban Land Institute’s recognition as “one of the best planned and best managed communities in the nation!”



Pictured (l-r) is Dick Magnuson and Bill Dempsey.