Growing up, Owen’s mom taught him to do things right the first time. It is that ethos that attributes to the successes of Skywalker Construction. “We’re inspired by design and driven by perfection,” Owen Dake, Co-owner of Skywalker Construction, stated. Owen Dake and his long-time friend Luke Hanson are the owners of Skywalker Construction and the visionaries behind some of Durango’s top construction projects. The duo brings expertise and a detail-oriented approach to everything they do—from minor renovations in historic downtown Victorians to full-scale, from-the-ground-up custom homes perched on and in the mountains. Owen explained that he and Luke welcome and appreciated opportunities to confront, then resolve unusual design, and logistical challenges. Sometimes that looks like building a one-level dream home for a client with multiple sclerosis who needs special design accommodations for their lifestyle. Other times, it means blasting dynamite to carve out a site for a mountainside mansion up at Purgatory. There’s nothing too challenging nor any dream too big or too small.
Born in 1973 in Pittsburgh, Owen was introduced to the world of construction and development as soon as he was old enough to walk and pick up a hammer. Both parents worked in the family business; Owen’s dad was also a full-time engineer and his mom, a residential developer and builder with the family business. While Owen’s father spent most of his working hours at his office, his mom was in the field, running and managing her crews. In fact, as a teenager, Owen helped his mom build out a residential subdivision that comprised 85 homesites. “That was back in the ’80s, at a time when ladies weren’t really doing that, but she made it work,” Owen recalled with pride. “They are the ones who taught me the importance of being honest and upfront with people, and of building things right the first time.”
After graduating from Fort Lewis College with a degree in Engineering Management—a combo program that pairs a traditional business degree with a minor in engineering—Owen continued to work for Iron Horse Custom Builders, the contractors behind dozens of local builds, including the DoubleTree by Hilton. After perfecting his skills, with carpentry was at the top of his list, Owen branched out and started his own cleaning business. He focused primarily on making new properties flawless for homeowners, polishing up the messes left by building crews. The role allowed him to form connections with future clients and shape essential relationships within the community. This endeavor also showed him, first-hand and up close, all kinds of details related to custom-home finishes, both good and bad. Eventually, he reconnected with Luke Hanson, who also studied at Fort Lewis and started a small construction company after he graduated. Luke needed some help with a major project, so Owen brought his cleaning crew and jumped in to help. The partnership worked so well that, after some negotiations, the two decided to join forces permanently; and Skywalker Construction began—as did its rise as a leading force in the market.
At about that same time, Owen finished his CAD design and decided to completely renovate his home, a 1913 historic Durango classic on East Fourth Avenue. After the two carpenters wholly recreated the space, they entered it into the 2006 Durango Parade of Homes. “We swept the awards, and all the builders I used to clean with, who were known for million-dollar properties, couldn’t believe it,” Owen said with a laugh. “They couldn’t believe the cleaning guy won. It was like, ‘Boom! Skywalker’s here now.’” That set the momentum. Every year since the 2006 parade, the Skywalker team has been commended for their home entries.
Deciding to expand their business, today, Luke and Owen champion a workforce of more than twelve, making it easier for the team to take on and work on multiple projects in various phases of development, without ever having to scramble or wait for [any] subcontractors. In addition to the crews working the sites, mission control is actively operating at Skywalker’s “World Headquarters”. Sam Jones manages all pre-construction details and coordination while Sherie Brown holds the position as Officer Commander. “She keeps us all in line. She organizes everything and is always dialed in,” Owen shared. And joining the team a few years ago is Charles Newmyer, the in-house designer who, after working for a major firm in Denver, returned to his hometown of Durango. This diverse, super troupe—be they on-site or behind the scenes—allows them to be involved in every phase and detail of a project from conception through construction to completion. At Skywalker, they recognize and appreciate the importance of building trusted relationships—not only amongst themselves but with and for clients—and will gladly collaborate with other subcontractors and architects alike.
Some of Owen’s favorite projects over the years include, understandably, his own home, the build out of Sotheby’s new office in the Animas Valley, the Durango downtown historic home renovation on E 12th Street and the total gut-rehab of historic 1915 Main Avenue, which all won first places in past Parade Of Homes. The second story of the Main Avenue structure, before the demo and restoration, was a chopped-up mess of four, dated apartment units. “The owner is a contractor from New York City, and we broke down walls to make all the separate apartments into a three-bedroom custom home that mixed urban loft vibes with historical Durango elements,” Owen explained. They rehabbed and restored original wood, brick, and other classic features from the 1800s, then collaborated with the owners to fully furnish and decorate the residence. “We even dug out the basement and refinished that. A lot of people don’t take the time to do things that well and correctly, literally, from top to bottom.”
In 2020, Skywalker will break ground on several custom builds. One is a modern mountain residence in Twin Buttes, and another is a 4,000-square-foot custom-home that cleverly divides the living spaces and master suite into two distinct wings, separated by a semi-enclosed courtyard. However, of all the projects on the list, Owen, Luke, Sam and Charles are very honored and humbled by the collaborative home-build project between Skywalker Construction and the Gary Sinise Foundation, which provides support and assistance to U.S. military veterans and their families.
Constructed in Bayfield, the house sits on 30 acres and will be the forever home to a retired United States Air Force veteran and his family. While serving his third tour in Iraq, he sustained severe injuries from a roadside explosion. The blast caused the loss of his left (dominant) arm and left eye, and he now suffers bilateral blindness. “We had to be very strategic with this in-house design about the kitchen, closets, and bathrooms. It’s fully accessible, fully automated. He can talk to the house, lock the doors, change the temperature, all with his voice,” Owen respectfully conveyed. “During the design phase, his wife would make models of the layout, and he’d give us feedback. So, it was incredible to see him touch the wood wall framing and get an actual feel of the house’s layout during the walkthrough.” The experience has left an indelible impression on the entire Skywalker team, and they are honored to be building this forever home project.
If the Skywalker name makes you think of heroes from Star Wars, then you’re on the right track because there is seemingly no construction challenge, they can’t take on heroically. From straightforward renovations to custom mountain homes to special, out-of-this-world projects like those for a disabled veteran hero, Skywalker Construction has the force to complete any project and overcome any design challenge, and their force is strong. The rise of Skywalker is upon us. Stay tuned.
“We’re inspired by design and driven by perfection.” - Owen Dake, Co-owner of Skywalker Construction
Story written by: Ray Dennison Photos Provided by: Skywalker Construction