A novel Catskills luxury second home community emphasizes material and energy sustainability, and minimum of buyer stress
by matt Scanlon
According to the latest census, just under 6% of United States homeowners also own a second home, typically within 150 miles of a primary residence. And while the percentage of Americans who own a home has remained relatively stable since the 1960s, second home ownership has been on the rise, and remarkably. Stunning figures from the National Association of Realtors revealed that second (or “vacation”) residence sales jumped an astonishing 29.7% in 2013 alone.
In the city area, some of this is attributable to an increasing number of high income homes, and generally higher concentrations of wealth within them, but some of it is certainly due to city psychology. We simply desire second residences more broadly, compressed as we are—at work and at home—in tighter units than those of the average American.
The urban dream, then, is to acquire a comfortable (some might say luxurious) and well-appointed home at an attainable price, and that is precisely the complicated target point nexus Drew Lang of Lang Architecture in Manhattan aimed to hit with his Hudson Woods project. Roughly 90 miles north of the city in the Hudson River Valley near Kerhonkson, Lang’s development consists of 26 lots—the structures upon them built from a series of pre-developed plans. The homes are set on generous, non-confining expanses of property, but Lang’s idea was also to embrace the notion of community.
“We were seeking to fill a need for attainably-priced, luxury second homes,” he said. “And the timing could not have been more ideal, as it turns out, because the Catskills, overall, is experiencing a major revival, with designers and artisans at the forefront. We wanted to make a contribution in forming its new identity.”
After acquiring the property with private investors last year, Lang’s firm began developing the concept–one that, at least in the initial customer buying stages, faintly resembles the sort of “pick your style and execution” of automobile websites. Floorplans, colors, interior detailing…a wide range of choices are at buyers’ discretion, a feature Lang was quick to emphasize in response to potential fears that what was being executed there was essentially a cookie-cutter community.
“We are not simply clear-cutting huge swaths of land to create identical lots,” he explained. “We are selectively addressing each to meet site-specific conditions. Lots vary in size from three to twelve acres, and we are careful to retain the old-growth trees and other natural elements that give each property its character.”
Sustainability is an additional and emphasized concept for Hudson Woods developers. Its principal architect described a “straight from the source” mission in home construction, and goes to pains to source locally for every practical material that can be brought in from a 150 mile radius. The effort was to, as Lang described it, “Reduce the project’s carbon trail, support local labor and craft, and pass on the cost savings to buyers. All of the wood used in the construction, for example—from framing to the flooring to doors—was brought in from Hickman Lumber, a family-owned business in Pennsylvania.
The roads, driveways, and retaining walls were mined and processed from Bluestone that exists onsite. That was a huge task undertaken by our construction manager, Jackson Hahne, in coordination with our excavation team from Romosa Excavation, led by Satya Scanlon (no relation to the writer of this article). Beyond that, we went with interior paints and wood finishes that contain no volatile organic compounds to provide better air quality indoors.”
Prices vary according to lot and home size and interior and exterior appointments, as might be anticipated, but a standard home in the community (three bedrooms, two bathrooms) runs $665,000. That price point that might come as an initial surprise to window shoppers accustomed to seeing ranch homes in the Catskills for less than half that price, but as legion buyers will attest, that buy-in is just the beginning. Older houses in the hard-winter-hit river valley nearly always need considerable renovations, as well as a level of upkeep that often makes weekends trips mandatory, not just relaxing.
“Our buyers are savvy and know the market,” added Lang. “The Catskills in general and Hudson Woods in particular, are a steal compared to other markets like the Hamptons. Our development offers tremendous value in that regard—it’s a meticulously designed and carefully considered haven in a beautiful setting, for a fraction of what a buyer would pay in other hot second home markets.”
It’s difficult not to compare Lang’s vision to that of Frank Lloyd Wright and his Usonian home concept—one that also emphasized sustainability, price point, and livability, but Lloyd Wright’s obsession with controlling every interior and exterior detail is not shared here.
“No…buyers have full control over the interior design of their homes. However, if they’re looking for recommendations, we are more than happy to point them in the direction of local vendors who provided heirloom furnishings for our model home,” offered the architect. “Such pieces are designed it to fit seamlessly with our vision, including Samuel Moyer Furniture, Dzierlenga F+U, Wickham Solid Wood Studio, Fern NYC, Michael Robbins, and Materia Designs.”
Buyers with a zeal for environmental considerations can order additional site upgrades, including a charging station for electric vehicles, solar panels…even a greenhouse.
“We also recently partnered with BMW to use an electric model i3 to bring prospective buyers around the property to view available lots while limiting our carbon footprint,” Lang pointed out.
The percentage of full-time residents and periodic visitors has been mixed, with a preponderance being year-round weekend and vacation getaway buyers. Even those looking to create a full-time home at the community maintain “a professional connection to the city,” according to the architect.
“At about an hour and a half from Manhattan, it makes for relatively stress-free drive,” he added. “But far enough to truly feel like an escape.”
Kerhonkson, NY / 212.233.9187 / hudsonwoods.com