Set to retire, Mike Breedlove leaves lasting legacy with Breedlove Land Planning

For 36 years, Mike Breedlove has been the face and name of Breedlove Land Planning, one of the premier landscape architecture and civil engineering firms in Georgia. Over that time, he and his team have designed thousands of site plans, built an expansive client roll and fostered a supportive, collaborative culture that continues to grow and evolve.

Mike, 65, will retire from his post this month, but he knows the company he is leaving behind is built to last.

“As we’ve grown, we have continued to be relationship-focused, and that started with Mike,” said Kyle Webb, one of the principals and owners of the firm. “We have organically developed a lot of mentor-mentee relationships that create a lot of well-rounded professionals in our field. To carry on Mike’s legacy is to continue to teach and develop others.”

Mike’s legacy is immense in the landscape architecture field and in the communities he has served.

He never dreamed when he was starting his company and working out of his basement that Breedlove Land Planning’s projects would someday include the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Callaway Gardens, Zoo Atlanta, Oklahoma City Zoo, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and National Park Service.

Mike has helped develop 232 schools in 17 school districts, as well as over a dozen private school campuses. He’s helped design 17 community centers in 13 different areas across Georgia, and he’s overseen development and construction at over 40 Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.

Answering a Calling

A Georgia native, Mike was first introduced to landscape architecture in high school through a work-study program. The work was with a development firm, but the job was landscaping — a hard job, especially during Georgia’s hot summers.

“I was working out there and it was 90 degrees, just out there raking and shoveling and just dying,” Breedlove remembered. “And this guy drove up in a nice car, got out and gave us all instructions, and then he got back in his car and drove away.”

“And I said, ‘By God, that’s who I want to be.’ It was a landscape architect.”

Mike quickly dove into learning more about landscape architecture, reading books in high school and setting his sights on the renowned landscape architecture program at the University of Georgia. He arrived at UGA in the fall of 1977 and walked onto the football team. As he talks about his short football career now, he says he walked on and limped off of the team.

“I found out really quickly I was either going to be a landscape architect or a football player, and I knew I was there for my education,” Mike said. “There was no deviation. That’s what I was going to be.”

Mike graduated from UGA in 1980 and started his career at Evan Marbut & Associates in Decatur, working on site design for several schools in Dekalb County. Just five years later, he started his own firm with one client, Gwinnett Industries. He was just 29 years old.

“I was scared to death to start my own business,” Mike said. “I got married, had two kids, and we were building a house and running a business — it was a big load on all of us.”

Taking a Holistic Approach

Starting out, Breedlove Land Planning was made up entirely of landscape architects practicing site design. Engineers were contracted as needed for projects initially, but that would end soon enough as the team rapidly evolved into a landscape architecture-engineering firm.

“We learned quickly that our clients liked our holistic approach,” Mike said. “They liked that we had all these services blended under one roof. It makes our projects more seamless for our clients.”

Under Mike’s watch, Breedlove Land Planning has grown out of his basement in Conyers into a pair of offices in Atlanta and Bishop with more than 20 associates.

Many of the first wave of associates are leaders in the company today, including Hugh “Chip” Brown, Jr. and Scott Talbot. While they left the firm early in their careers to pursue other opportunities, they all came back to Breedlove. Today, the two men, as well as Webb and Matt Tanner, are the principals of the firm.

“Chip and Scott returning was a real testament to our culture,” Mike said. “The culture is the magnet here.”

What does that culture look like? It goes beyond the old beach volleyball tournaments at Mike’s house or fishing trips. It’s grounded in a camaraderie and support system that has only strengthened as the firm has grown.

“When it comes to our employee-employer relationship, we expect our associates to say what they mean and mean what they say,” Mike said. “They get ownership of these projects, and they have to see them through.

“You learn a lot that way.”

A Lasting Legacy in the Industry

For nearly 20 years, Mike has served his profession of landscape architecture through his active involvement on the Georgia State Board of Landscape Architects, including stints as Chairman for most of those years. He also served as Regional Director for the Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Boards (CLARB) and Georgia Chapter President for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), which inducted him as a Fellow in 2000.

Just this year, he was recognized by the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission as the Level II Designer of the Year.

Mike has passed on the importance of serving their industry and communities through volunteer efforts to his staff.

“We’ve carried through a lot of volunteer efforts — whether with Habitat for Humanity, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the U.S. Green Building Council and more,” Talbot said. “There are so many volunteer roles here.”

For more than three decades, Breedlove Land Planning has designed the sites for schools and government complexes, commercial developments and parks, and dozens of projects at UGA and Georgia Tech. The Rockdale Veterans War Memorial in Conyers was designed by Mike and his team, and it has been updated many times over the years to honor those who served the U.S. in various wars and conflicts.  

For Big Creek Elementary in Forsyth County, Mike worked with professors and researchers to plan and develop the site, while also crafting methodologies and modeling for erosion control.

“A lot of the Georgia Erosion Control Manual has Mike’s fingerprints on it through his experience,” Brown said. “He’s worked with professors and experts at universities across the Southeast to expand research and education.” 

Breedlove Land Planning’s holistic approach will not change with the firm’s current ownership, which has been in place the last five years. Brown, Talbot, Tanner and Webb intend to carry on Mike’s legacy of holistic design and culture of camaraderie.

“I think that Mike has clearly created a culture and principles our clients see as assets, which is a big part of why we keep getting to work with them on great projects,” said Tanner, who serves as vice president of engineering for the firm. “Everyone here embraces Mike’s approach — to be well rounded and learn everything they can about our industry.”

As he looks ahead to the next chapter of his journey, Mike encourages his industry to take on projects with a holistic, sustainable point of view. There is a balance that must be maintained, a balance that Breedlove has practiced his entire career.

“My legacy is that I was a design professional who cared, a design professional who viewed projects as much more than the project,” he said. “It was the community, the environment, the people around them over the years. It’s been a blessing to be here and a blessing to build the relationships with our clients and communities we serve.”

Tech Tower Lawn

Construction is wrapping up for the current phase of Georgia Tech’s renovation of the Tech Tower lawn. The project area is located below the iconic Tech Tower and serves as a prominent gateway into campus off of North Avenue. The current phase will improve a parking lot adjacent to the lawn, including hardscape and drainage improvements. A future phase will focus on improving the lawn area itself and will aim to return the geometry and circulation patterns to historical precedents. Breedlove Land Planning is providing landscape architecture and civil engineering services for this project. We are honored to help revamp such a significant part of campus!

Zoo Atlanta gets a new rhinoceros

Mumbles, a southern white rhinoceros, is the newest resident of Zoo Atlanta’s African Savanna. Breedlove Land Planning provided site design for the African Savanna, which includes a ‘best in class’ elephant barn, elephant, giraffe, rhino and hoofstock habitats, an impressive water feature, pavilions, boardwalks and interpretive signage.

Click here to learn more.

Evans County Public Fishing Area

Recently the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division proudly unveiled a new event center and campground at the Evans County Public Fishing Area. Breedlove Land Planning provided landscape architecture and civil engineering services for both facilities to take full advantage of the adjacent Bidd Sands Lake. The ribbon cutting ceremony for these new amenities included a formal dedication of Bidd Sands Lake, named after local hero Captain William Daniel ‘Bidd’ Sands, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

The event center, designed by Lyman Davidson Dooley Architects, is situated on a small peninsula and offers wonderful views of the lake. The building contains a full kitchen and restrooms, and is accompanied by a new parking lot, walkways and landscaping. It will certainly be an enjoyable venue to host any event from weddings to family reunions to small conferences. 

The campground contains 14 campsites accommodating RVs, 8 tent-only sites, and a restroom and shower facility. It will be an attractive amenity for both fishing and camping enthusiasts, as it also offers views and access to Bidd Sands Lake. Anglers can easily stay overnight or campers can easily fish!

Breedlove Land Planning is delighted to have a part in both of these projects that will undoubtedly be wonderful assets for Evans County and the surrounding community.

Top Georgia Private Schools

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported on a recent ranking of the best Private K-12 schools in Georgia and Breedlove Land Planning is proud to count three of them as our clients.  At Pace Academy, we are currently working on their lower school renovation and a campus wide hydrology study.  Across Atlanta at The Paideia School, we are working on the site design for a new Junior High School building that has already received approval from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.  At Woodward Academy in Southwest Atlanta, we are currently in the design development stage for the renovation of Brewster Hall to become the new administration hub for the campus. We appreciate the opportunity to work with these great institutions and you can learn more about our experience on our portfolio page.

Click here to read the article.

Oklahoma City Zoo’s Galapagos Tortoise Exhibit

 

The new Galapagos tortoise exhibit at the Oklahoma City Zoo is under construction!  Breedlove Land Planning is providing site design services for this new habitat located within the Children’s Zoo area.  As OKC Zoo states, “The new Galapagos tortoise habitat consists of one indoor and two outdoor spaces. The climate-controlled 900 sq. ft. indoor habitat consists of a nesting area, an indoor pool, natural substrate floors, a vestibule for animal caretakers with a sink and utility space. It also features an open-air viewing area for Zoo guests. The outdoor spaces total 8,000 sq. ft. to roam with natural boulders, a log wall and native landscaping.”  We look forward to sharing photos of the finished exhibit later this year.

 

 

Artificial Turf Growing in Popularity at Georgia High Schools

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As football season gets underway, according to the AJC, this is the first year that more Georgia high schools will be playing on artificial turf fields than natural grass. Twenty-two high schools installed artificial turf on their home fields during the offseason, bringing the total to 212 high schools of the 422 in the Georgia High School Association.

Why the switch? High schools are seeing the benefits of artificial turf in less maintenance and year-round field use for various sports and events. So many schools are limited in their physical space and ability to maintain practice fields that can stand up to the use experienced in high school sports. With the growing popularity of soccer and lacrosse at the JV and varsity levels combined with football, school systems have found it difficult and expensive to maintain natural turf playing fields that can stand up to the year-round wear and tear. One of the biggest benefits of synthetic turf fields is the ability to play on them during or immediately after rain, no matter how large or small the storm. From a maintenance standpoint, artificial turf eliminates the need for irrigation, fertilizing, mowing, top dressing, aerating, and painting field markings.

BLP has designed over 30 artificial turf fields, including four of the high school field conversions installed this year: Apalachee and Winder-Barrow in Barrow County; and Duluth and South Gwinnett in Gwinnett County. BLP also designed new fields this year for Inter Atlanta FC Soccer and Eastside Elementary School in Cobb County.

Click here to read the full article in the AJC.

Red Top Mountain State Park Visitor Center

 

The Visitor Center at Red Top Mountain State Park is nearing completion. The new ‘heart’ of this popular Georgia State Park will provide a wide variety of services for users including natural and historic interpretation of the ecological and human history of this fascinating park along the shores of Lake Allatoona. The new site design includes improved vehicular and pedestrian circulation, an entry plaza, and outdoor education pavilion, amphitheater and a host of native and drought tolerant trees, shrubs and groundcovers. The building, designed by Croft and Associates and constructed by Lovvorn Construction, should be open to the public by late September 2019.

 

Church of the Epiphany

BLP’s Katie Medina and Alan Wieczynski have been working with the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany for almost two years on their latest campus addition. It all started with a vision and a Master Plan back in 2017, and this summer BLP finally got the green light to turn this project into construction documents. Our team is seen here walking the church’s Capital Campaign, Building and Grounds, and Native Plant committees through the plans. We can’t wait to break ground on this project in 2020!

Georgia Tech Housing’s 8th Street Student Apartments Upper Courtyard

The renovation of Georgia Tech Housing’s 8th Street student apartments upper courtyard is nearing completion.  Breedlove Land Planning led the planning and design of this new student amenity which, once completed, will include shady outdoor study areas, a grove for hammocks and lounging, grilling stations, outdoor wifi, charging stations and a bocce court capable of being converted to an outdoor gathering space for housing events.  JM Wilkerson should be completing construction this summer and we look forward to sharing finished photos of this exciting project in the fall.