Overseeing one of the largest master planned communities in the country
A master planned community the size of Summerlin takes a lot of planning to be successful. The way the villages and neighborhoods are laid out, the alignment of major roadways throughout the community, and the design of village parks, streetscapes, arroyos and paseos that connect the neighborhoods and villages to each other is all a product of planning.
Julie Cleaver, Vice President of Planning and Design, Summerlin, oversees the creation of the framework for combining appropriate land uses, that when experienced, make sense and provide opportunities for residents to live, work, shop, learn, worship, play and gather in a place that reflects the natural beauty of the desert environment.
“The planning process can take a thousand turns—from the time my team and I begin setting the theme and architectural style for a village to the development of the neighborhoods and construction of the amenities,” she said. “Not only is it important for the plan to be flexible as far as land uses and density are concerned, the plan also needs to meet the demands of the market while being true to the Summerlin brand. Maintaining a consistent vision is central as we work through the plan.”
Cleaver grew up in Durham, N.C., the state’s center for cultural arts, research and development and government—all of which influenced Cleaver and her choice of a career.
“I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from The Ohio State University. It turns out that this combination of degrees is perfect for working in a land development company,” she explained.
As for what she does, Cleaver said, “While I am instrumental in creating the framework for development in our community, I don’t do this alone. I have lots of help from my design team which includes many talented consultants who have worked in Summerlin for up to 20 years. They are all dedicated to continuing Summerlin’s legacy as a world class community. Together, we are currently working on development projects in 10 different villages, including the planning for Downtown Summerlin and three new residential villages, as well as the design for new village parks, trail systems and streetscapes.”
Encompassing 22,500 acres, Summerlin is one of the largest master planned communities in the country, spanning much of the Valley’s the west side and sharing its entire western boundary with the Bureau of Land Management.
“Embracing our surroundings through the use of colors and materials on our homes, offices, retail centers, houses of worship and schools helps create that sense of place for our community which is an integral part of Summerlin’s identity,” Cleaver said.
As for other women entering her field, Cleaver advises, “We have to project self-confidence in our abilities and be willing to assert our point of view. Most importantly, we have to do that in a non-threatening and collegial manner. My best advice is to be prepared—know the details of what you’re working on and be able to promote your role and your strengths in the office. You’ll not only establish yourself as the go-to person, but you’ll be ready when an opportunity presents itself.
“My second piece of advice is to develop your sense of humor. A witty come-back to a perceived criticism can solve all kinds of conflicts and take the tension out of a room faster than anything else. It’s much easier to work with others when you’re all smiling.”
Along with participating in her church and volunteering for other charities, Cleaver believes that whether she is mentoring at work or listening to a friend, “it’s all important and meaningful to me.”