The Bell Story
How it all started
Bell Homebuilders started out as an engineering firm, thirty years ago by Julian Bell. Julian, born in Virginia Beach, an engineer graduate of Virginia Tech made his way to Chattanooga, TN back in the late 1960?s to take a job at Dupont. From there he worked with a Mechanical Contractor and then became Director of Public Works for the City of Chattanooga and also the Assistant City Engineer before starting Bell Engineering.
As strictly an engineering firm, Julian Bell and his staff provided industrial clients with structural and civil engineering services. Bell designed projects like subdivisions, roads and sewer systems. It was his neighborhood design work that opened the door to building homes. Julian discovered when he had finished designing a new subdivision that there was a need to supervise the rest of the project. Homeowners weren’t able to manage their own contracts. So a group got together and asked Julian if he would take propriety interest in their subdivision to supervise the work. Early on Julian realized that every time there was an economic downturn, he had as much or more tied up in the deal as the people he was working for. So he began to develop his own subdivisions. And, as financing became more and more difficult in the late 80’s and 90’s, Julian dug his feet in deeper into the building business to protect his investments.
Bell Engineering was slowly becoming Bell Homebuilders and one of the largest of its kind in East Tennessee. Simultaneously, Bell and his three sons built seven subdivisions, and two townhome developments. With a well-planned design, Bell developed these subdivisions in several different market classes and economic ranges. “In truth, we’re building communities,” Julian explained. “We look at a piece of land, decide what type of individuals or families would be interested in the kind of community that could be built on the land and determine the probable economic class of potential buyers. If we do our homework correctly, we will build a community that meets the needs of a compatible range of homeowners.”
Bell Engineering was slowly becoming Bell Homebuilders and one of the largest of its kind in East Tennessee.
Along with a well-planned and researched subdivision design, Julian learned early on that he absolutely needed to learn every facet of the residential building industry. He attributes much of his success to the Home Builders Association of Chattanooga. Julian went to contractors seminars, pursued events with the Urban Land Institute and local Planning Association and checked every other source that offered guidance. “We studied what types of products should go into a subdivision, the importance of advanced planning for a community and how to recognize building opportunities,” Julian explained. “We learned that we have to do more than watch our material costs and build a quality product, we have to look hard at the sales end of business and listen to the marketplace and see what consumers want.”
All of Julian’s homework began to pay off. The home building side of Bell really took off when youngest son Jay took the helm in 1998. Jay helped take the family business from selling 45 lots in a year to over 300 a year for the past ten years. Like father like son, Jay learned first hand, the ins and outs of the residential building business.
Now 30 years and 8 growing subdivisions later, including over 4,000 lots, Bell Home Builders continues to do what it does best, build quality affordable homes with absolute customer service and satisfaction. Bell continues to chart a course and plan for the future, building homes that sell themselves and grow in value for their owners. That value and success is attributed to Bell’s philosophy from the very beginning, that all homes must share the same quality that is built into the largest homes. “Small homes, 1200-1800 sq. ft. take careful planning to include, not only the essentials, but extras, that place a home a cut above the competition, yet keep it affordable for the starter homebuyer.” Julian adds.
Julian’s hard work, determination and leadership in Bell Home Builders have helped so many families start their lives in a brand new quality Bell home. And in return, Julian is committed to serving the industry that has offered him so much.
Julian Bell has served as Homebuilders Association of Chattanooga President for two terms. He has also served on the Governor’s Affairs Committee and was awarded a Presidential citation. Julian Bell was chosen as developer of the year in 1987 and 1992.
IN MEMORY OF OUR FOUNDER
Julian Bell Jr. was one of Chattanooga’s most respected business leaders and home builders. He built his company from the ground up, developing over 4,000 lots in 28 communities over 30 years. As a licensed civil engineer in seven southern states, Julian Bell Jr. had over 35 years of residential land development and home building experience. He was a 1962 graduate of Virginia Tech with a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering. He was a long-time active member of the Chattanooga Homebuilders Association serving on local and statewide committees and twice as its President. Julian had three sons with his wife, Carola: Julian III, Jon and Jay and seven grandkids. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading, time with his grandkids, his colleagues at the Mountain City Club and VT alumni activities. He was a big supporter of Virginia Tech’s school of engineering.
- Named Developer of the Year in 1987 and 1992
- Certifications/Licenses: Civil Engineer, Land Surveyor, TN, General Contractor, TN, Real Estate Broker, TN.