Modern Home Builder - Fall 2017 - 63
the career change, he wanted to eventually get back into home
design. "It had always been my goal to combine architecture and
business into a career," Bowyer says.
The Great Recession provided that chance. While the market
as a whole struggled in 2008, Bowyer noticed there was still demand for luxury housing - but a low supply in the Chicago area.
Many luxury builders went out of business because their financial
models could not cope with the sudden drop in buyers and tighter lending habits.
That left a vacancy for a new company to fill, leading Bowyer
to start Middlefork. "I found a place with demand without supply," he says.
Although he had a plan, Bowyer still faced the challenge of starting a new building company during the nationwide housing collapse. However, he possessed a few advantages over other builders.
Many established companies were saddled with the falling values of
properties they had previously acquired but could not develop.
Middlefork, on the other hand, was able to buy distressed land
cheaply, allowing it to pass that savings along to the eventual buyer with a more economic sales price. Further, the company was
backed by an investor and could bid for properties with cash, giving it an edge over builders that relied on tumultuous bank lending.
"Cash was king" during those days, Bowyer explains.
"We tend to focus on two
custom home projects and
one spec home at a time."
Middlefork has built homes in some of Chicago's most upscale
neighborhoods, such as Lincoln Park and Lakeview, along with
rehab projects along the suburban North Shore. The historic and
dense nature of those communities creates a challenge to building
That is especially true in Lincoln Park, where community
groups are often resistant to development and change. Things like
reduced side yards (leading to wider homes), raised rear yards (enabling easier inside/outside living) and connected garages (providing security and protection from Chicago's often harsh weath-
Middlefork has built homes in some of Chicago's most upscale neighborhoods,
such as Lincoln Park and Lakeview.
Fall 2017 www.mhb-magazine.com