Clay Keith, Chris Burch, and Trent Hill of Grand Bay Construction | Photo by Hunter Burgtorf

Building a Legacy by the Gulf

Grand Bay Construction 

People might see a beautiful home and fawn over its design, interiors, and details, but often the construction team is a background singer to the final product. Every structure begins as a plot of land with untapped potential, and The Heritage – A VIE Legacy Show Home is no exception. Owner Chris Burch of Grand Bay Construction and his team, plus numerous building partners and contractors, were the boots on the ground (and on the roof) who made this gorgeous custom home happen in just over a year and a half. From breaking ground to helping the VIE team perfect the details for the grand reveal party, the GBC crew laid the foundation for this beautiful residence to come to life. We caught up with Burch to learn more about the process.

An aerial view of the Gulf-front community of Heritage Dunes, including The Heritage – A VIE Legacy Show Home site under construction in the bottom right | Photo by Grand Bay Construction

VIE: How do you stay calm and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel throughout the building process?

Chris Burch: I see the finished house even before we start and keep that vision all the way through the process. You have to reset a lot. A house is at its best when it expects guests, and we are always expecting guests—that’s the mantra we try to follow.

VIE: What do you think about this Legacy Show Home project?

CB: There’s a tremendous amount of energy in this area at the heart of 30-A. From a builder perspective, it’s been a dream to be based here, where we can stage our central command and still be close to The Heritage. It allowed us to be more hands-on and efficient. As a builder, those are the things we hope for every time.

Photo by Jeff Landreth

VIE: Tell us about Grand Bay Construction. When was it founded? Has the success you’ve had in this market exceeded your expectations?

VIE CEO/editor-in-chief Lisa Burwell and Chris Burch at The Heritage during its construction phase | Photo by Jeff Landreth

CB: I cofounded Grand Bay in 2005, and anyone who has been around for a while knows that was the worst time to start a business down here. Everyone knows things were tough, but we kept going, and in the last couple of years, it’s been a slow uptick leading to projects like this. The first house I ever built here was with Gerald Burwell of Burwell Associates; it’s nice to be this many years down the road and come back together to work on this project. Looking back, I don’t think I expected such a big wave of work. This area is exploding, and it’s fun to be part of it all. We are different from a lot of other regions where they have the same architecture. Here, we have some of the most talented architects and engineers in the country, which allows us to build many different styles of homes, and I think that is what makes being a builder here so special.

VIE: How did you meet Carl and Tamara Tricoli of Bella Mare Real Estate Holdings, and when did you break ground on this project?

CB: We broke ground around April 2021. We met the Tricolis when they were shopping for a building for the Heritage Dunes project, and we quickly jumped on board with them on the renovation of a Gulf-front home, as well.

A house is at its best when it expects guests, and we are always expecting guests—that’s the mantra we try to follow.

VIE: Can you talk to us about your experience working with the entire show home team?

CB: I joke around with people who tell me that they want to be builders and come into this industry and tell them that as important as it is to know code and know how to build, there’s a big psychology piece I think you need to know to be successful: you have to understand people. You have to motivate your team and be able to work with different architects, designers, owners, and all kinds of personalities. Figuring that out and seeing how everyone works together will serve you well. It doesn’t seem directly related to building, but it is. You can be the most code-savvy person, but without that human interaction and knowing how to communicate with others, you’re not going to get very far.

Chris Burch, interior designer Duce May, and Clay Keith looking over plans for The Heritage | Photo by Jeff Landreth

I’ve been an advertiser in VIE magazine for many years, and we talked about how we would like to build a house together. A few years ago, we thought we had a good fit that didn’t work out, but like many things in life, we speak it, and then a few years down the road, it happens. I think that happened with the opportunity to build this show home. It’s refreshing to work with such creative and talented people.

VIE: Can you talk about your team and how you operate efficiently and effectively using technology?

CB: This is definitely a massive team project. We had four people working on this home from the Grand Bay team—two in the field and two in the office. In the field, we had Clay Keith and Trent Hill; and we also had Matt Ellington working behind the scenes on details and helping us get this house scheduled right. It’s a great team, and I am very fortunate to work with these guys. Just like homes for so many years were way behind in technology, and we’re starting to see more tech come into them, we’re using that technology as builders to boost our communication with everyone on our team, from the owners to the designers. It allows us to work things out more efficiently and adapt and implement change faster.

Seeing the whole team and guests walk through the show home gives me a lot of satisfaction because, for so long, it was drawings on paper. So to see the reactions from everyone is really special.

Chris Burch at Modus studio filming an interview for The Making of a Show Home documentary, coming soon!

VIE: What has been the most challenging circumstance throughout this process? What about the most exciting?

CB: Being able to navigate the environment we’re in is a challenge. For example, in the past, we could bank on getting something shipped on time or finishing a project by a specific deadline, but I believe that learning to adapt to this “new normal” will serve us well as we build the following eight homes for Bella Mare. Seeing the whole team and guests walk through the show home gives me a lot of satisfaction because, for so long, it was drawings on paper. So to see the reactions from everyone is really special.

Photo by Hunter Burgtorf

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Visit or follow them on Instagram @grandbayconstruction to see more projects.

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