As a builder of historically accurate new homes, Mack Bissette has become accustomed to a certain amount of disbelief about his work. “No one believes it's a new home,” he says. “Everyone thinks it's the best renovation they've ever seen.” It's an understandable assumption, given where Bissette's Springfield Restoration Group builds: historic neighborhoods in the Southeast where the first wave of renovation has already happened. He's occupied this niche since 1998, when he built his first new home in Atlanta after nearly a decade of residential renovations. “It was a natural step,” Bissette says. “Our buyers wanted to live in a historic neighborhood, with historic trees and also new homes” with all the modern updates, without the headaches of renovating. Its Atlanta homes sell for $350,000 to $450,000.

A former appraiser, Bissette watches neighborhoods closely. “We're always asking, ‘Is it time to go in?'” If the government has begun reinvesting in the community, other developers are involved, and homeowners appear committed to updating their own properties, the builder answers that timing question with a yes. “We're looking for change,” Bissette says.

The formula appears to be working, judging by the company's growth. (Revenue is expected to double in 2004, to $26 million.) Last year, the company expanded to Jacksonville, Fla., where its homes have already won accolades from local historic groups. More cities may be on the way: Bis-sette thinks that Tampa, Fla., might be next. And, after years of scattered-site building, the company is now working on its first subdivision: a 47-unit community in Atlanta.