All posts by Rick Volpe

About Rick Volpe

Rick has been leading, managing and marketing DTJ’s community design and planning services for over 20 years. With projects throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico, and South America, Rick has lead the planning studio in developing and creating unique communities in numerous cultures and environments. Rick’s personal motivation has been in spreading DTJ’s experience, talent, knowledge and cultural understanding to new places throughout the US and internationally to bring the Client’s vision to reality. With over 30 years of planning and design experience, Rick’s focus is on developing master planned communities that fit the unique lifestyle, culture, and local market conditions, while respecting the land and environment, to create sustainable and successful projects. Rick’s specific expertise include site analysis and evaluation, master planning and strategic programming, site planning and design, entitlement and approval processing, community visioning, design guidelines and cultural adaptation.

A Shorter Play Golf Amenity Experience


Amenitize with Shorter Play Golf

The Costa del Sol region of Southern Spain is bathed in great weather, beaches and golf courses; so, the last thing the new resort community of Real de la Quinta needed was another traditional 18-hole golf course.

With time, money and land at a premium today, especially for resort courses, more golf architects are turning to less than 18-hole layouts.  Radically new and different golf courses, including 6, 9 and 12-hole layouts, are becoming a popular alternative; helping attract more people to the game and appealing to existing golfers looking to play a shorter round.   

With over 30 courses within a short drive of the site, a lack of suitable land for a traditional course, and the desire to provide a wider variety of amenities than typically offered in the area, the DTJ design team, working with Manuel Pinero (golf designer, advisor and Spanish PGA and Ryder Cup Champion), developed an innovative plan for a non-traditional golf experience for the Real project.

The solution was to create a golf course as part of a larger, multi-purpose resort experience, co-mingled in the heart of the project, including a large recreational/watersports lake and lake club, multi-use trail network and a 6-hole golf course and golf training academy.

The design and layout of the course incorporated multiple tee and green placements to create different lengths and challenges, offering a varied course experience if played over multiple days, or as a 6-, 12- or 18-hole experience.  The course was also designed to work in combination with the golf training academy, where guests could take lessons with a professional trainer, utilizing world class training and practice facilities, before testing their skills on the golf course. 

The steep valley topography required careful grading to create a series of terraces, allowing for different activities at different levels of the site. The strategic placement of berms, bunkers, trees and retaining walls helped create a safe experience for both golf and non-golf users of the area.

Key advantages to the 6-hole course configuration:

  • Utilizes less land for golf (about a third the size), allowing for other recreational amenities and experiences in the same area
  • Provides shorter play (about 1 hour), versus 3 to 5 hours
  • Allows for different course lengths and golf experiences with multiple tee and green placements
  • Reduces maintenance cost and water usage, providing significant savings

When built, the REAL golf experience will be challenging enough for good golfers but still fun for amateurs and new golfers in a more relaxed environment.  

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Integrated Design Adds Value

A Planning process that fully understands built architecture and product design, integrated site design and landscape architecture, is an added benefit. DTJ’s collaborative process enhances a community by:

  • Providing a more cohesive planning and design solution
  • Streamlining coordination between design consultants
  • Fully understanding the complete design process from initial planning to implementation

As a trusted advisor, our objective is to help maximize the value and overall return for our Clients. Regardless of project scale, our Clients benefit from an integrated approach:

The integrated design approach of the Palmilla Community provided a unique “lifestyle living” environment, increasing home values and sales pace that outsold conventional tracts.

  • The site planning strategy was designed to integrate housing with ponds and water features for all homes, provided a development strategy that maximized lot premiums.
  • The site plan created housing clusters with landscape for easy phasing.
  • Creative site and building walls divided paired homes allowing for privacy and the integration of indoor- outdoor living.



Strategic investment in community amenities and public infrastructure at Anthem Colorado, including recreation centers, parks, open space and trails, helped increase home values and sales pace over conventional communities, even during the recent economic slowdown and great recession.

  • Creation of a comprehensive vision and design guidelines provided a commitment to quality that helped streamline the approval process and instill a sense of security for the City, as well as builders and home buyers.
  • The wide mix of residential uses and smaller, defined neighborhoods provided a unique niche and increased absorption in the marketplace.
  • Development of a “marketing journey” and Welcome Center created an important first impression and established a “sense of place” for visitors and home buyers.



The Design Vision for the MidTown Neighborhood represented the integration of a diverse mix of housing and commercial development on a challenged brownfield site on the urban fringe of Denver.  

  • The master plan included a mix of residential housing and a neighborhood commercial center that created an interconnected network of streets, with connections to the adjacent neighborhood.
  • Design Guidelines were created to address the untapped market that desired a fresh Architectural Style.
  • New housing product and lot design leveraged the side yards to create indoor-outdoor courtyards for more expansive living on smaller lots.
  • A Community Center and Main Street Retail integrated functional Urban Gardens and crisp modern styling that became the entry experience and community identity for the project.   



Let us demonstrate how our integrated approach can benefit your project.

Initial Planning Studies – Beyond Yield

Quick and cost effective planning studies provide insight into project potential.  DTJ’s extensive experience in a wide variety of projects and proven, market-driven product prototypes, gives us the unique ability to offer our clients a cost effective initial planning strategy. Such studies provide information needed to make strategic and informed decisions without investing substantial time and money.  The key benefits of Initial Planning Studies include:

Identify Opportunities and Constraints – Knowing what’s there and how it impacts development is an important first step. An early planning study incorporates a physical site inventory that helps identify important physical attributes that may impact development of the property.  This includes important site features and environmentally sensitive areas that may need to be preserved or protected as part of the planning and development process. Identifying the important assets of the site creates an opportunity to differentiate the project and establish a unique vision for the community.


Establish realistic expectations for land use, product types and density – An early planning study can range from initial conceptual ideas or alternatives, that help identify and determine the best approach and strategy for development; Eastmark cover_crop

to conceptual master plans, that identify and illustrate how the development strategy can be organized on the site, including applying land use types and densities to developable areas; Eastmark Conceptual MP_crop

to more site specific plans and yield studies, for one or more parcels of land, that test the assumptions of the land use, product types and densities, to create a more accurate representation of cost, revenue and value.
Eastmark Site Specific

Enhance Community Goals and Vision – Early planning studies are a good tool to help identify, create or enhance Community Goals and Vision for a project.  This helps establish the look and feel of a project before there is significant investment in detailed planning and design. Planning Studies can also be used to test the assumptions of the Master Plan to guide the future detailed planning process and the development Team toward a common vision. 

Design Drivers Final copy 

Let DTJ assist you in unlocking the potential of your existing or future project.

Boutique Resorts

Distinguishing the Boutique Resort Experience

Resort renovations continue their resurgence as developers and operators respond to pent up demand and desires of today’s vacationers. In the British Virgin Islands, boutique-scale resorts are no exception. Whether a couple seeking a quiet getaway, or multi-generations wanting to relax and vacation together, many desire privacy in a unique setting, with all the amenities of a large-scale resort.

“Whatever the solution, owners are demanding that properties be more carefully tailored to their settings… The beachfront resort must interpret its context with a modern hand that recognizes increasingly sophisticated expectations. The reimagined boutique hotel must project a unique design vision.”   – from Building Design + Construction

2015-01-13-09.10         2014-0807_Plan-GuestServicePatio

Surfsong Villa Resort on the island of Tortola is taking this advice seriously. Phase 1 of extensive planned renovations and rebranding has recently been completed, with a focus on the beachside villas, outdoor dining and event patio. The villas were re-designed with unique floor plans and distinct interior themes; repeat clientele can refer to them by name when they return the following year. Renovations were completed during the off-season, to keep from losing clients forced to go elsewhere. The villas were sited for privacy and boutique-scale feel, while embracing ocean views, and immediate access to resort amenities.

 “Whatever the scope, uniformity no longer sells. Economies of scale are always appealing, and no one wants to reinvent the wheel. But, increasingly, the traveling public will pay for experiences that are more special than another night in a generic property. “ – also from BD+C

Renovation of Surfsong’s guest facilities, the overall site and landscape design has significant impact as well. The design team even spent time on site selecting and placing boulders for the patio and the custom fire feature, for a natural feel to the beachfront setting. This all helps to distinguish the Surfsong experience.

 “Surfsong blends the privacy of a villa with the convenience of a resort in a natural beach front setting.”