Originally published on the New York Times on 16 June 2017. Written by Julie Satow. Access article here.
If the borscht belt is what you’re after, don’t come to Hudson Woods. The housing development, spread across 131 acres in the Catskills, has its roots in Scandinavian design, not beet soup and bungalows.
“Hudson Woods is the first of its kind up here, tailored to a new generation of Catskills buyers,” said Jeff Serouya, an associate real estate broker at Westwood Metes & Bounds Realty in Stone Ridge, N.Y., a few miles away from the Ulster County development. “More than half the buyers that come here now are from Brooklyn — or ‘the new Brooklyn,’ I should say.”
The Hudson Valley, a loosely defined area that runs along the Hudson River and encompasses counties like Dutchess, Columbia, Greene and Ulster, has been a popular second-home market for New Yorkers for generations. In recent years, a new wave has arrived, turning towns like Hudson into a hub of farm-to-table restaurants and art galleries. These new buyers, many of whom hail from gentrified areas of Brooklyn, are drawn to the Hudson Valley’s similar ethos, with its small farms and artisans. The area has also begun attracting a wealthier clientele, who previously might have vacationed in the Hamptons but are now eager to trade the bustle and traffic of Long Island for the quiet of upstate New York.
Last year, the number of homes sold in Ulster County jumped more than 16 percent, while prices increased 1.7 percent over the previous year, Mr. Serouya said. From January through May, prices have increased 3.6 percent compared with the same period the year before, and there have been three record-breaking sales of around $3 million in the past six months. “The market dipped during the recession,” he said. “But ever since 2012, we have seen record year followed by record year.”
The sales numbers look even more impressive when you take a slightly longer view: According to the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, the number of home sales in Ulster County jumped 18 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter of 2014, while in Columbia County, where the city of Hudson is, sales increased 45 percent during the same period. In Dutchess County they increased 114 percent. (Prices have not experienced the same trajectory: In Ulster, the average sales price dropped 1.5 percent over the same period, while in Dutchess it increased nearly 7 percent.)
At Hudson Woods, in Kerhonkson, where homes average $1 million, buyers can choose from three base options, featuring materials like white oak and local bluestone, as well as a menu of 30 upgrades that include radiant heating, in-ground pools and treehouses.
“I kept going back to the Hudson Valley, and especially the Catskills,” said Drew Lang, an architect in New York who developed Hudson Woods. “Because not only is it beautiful, with these natural characteristics, but there was so much pent-up energy in these towns and people doing such interesting things.”
Mr. Lang bought the land in 2013, building 26 homes, all but two of which have been sold. His design approach, he said, involved “putting nature first.” Mr. Lang did his best to minimize damage to the surrounding forest, he said, by consulting a landscape architect and a forester. He also partnered with nearby vendors, using light fixtures from a local designer, for instance, and stones that he found on site.
“Drew was clever, and met local makers and collaborated with them,” said Alex Barrett, who was a classmate of Mr. Lang at Yale and who recently bought a home at Hudson Woods.
“I love everything about it,” Mr. Barrett said of his three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house with an oversize garage, where he stores his car collection. He also has a two-bedroom guest cottage. “Drew’s curating of materials is lovely, and he really knows the local vernacular, but can translate it into a more modern aesthetic language.”
Other new developments in the Hudson Valley include Silo Ridge, a luxury project under construction on the other side of the river, in Dutchess County, and the Chapin Estate, a 6,000-acre development in Sullivan County, to the southwest.
Silo Ridge is perhaps the priciest of them all, and has drawn several high-profile buyers. It has an 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio and homes priced at $1,000 a square foot — or more than $2 million for a two-bedroom condo and $3.75 million for a house.
“It is the tranquillity up there that I love,” said Richard Bressler, the president of iHeartMedia, which owns iHeartRadio. Mr. Bressler is building a home on half an acre there, overlooking the golf course’s 16th hole. “Clearly, the proximity to New York and the fact it is only a 90-minute train ride doesn’t hurt, either.”
Mark Teixeira, the former Yankees baseball player, bought a condominium overlooking the 18th hole. He was attracted by the golf, and the hunting and fishing. “It is a completely new discovery,” Mr. Teixeira said. “I had never been to this area, other than driving through, but I love the peace and beauty.”
Silo Ridge is under construction: The Discovery Land Company, which has developed high-end projects like the Yellowstone Club in Montana and Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas, opened the golf course last year; a private restaurant for members opened several weeks ago. The remainder of the project, including 245 residences — 20 percent of which have sold — will be completed in a year or so, said Michael Meldman, the company’s chief executive and chairman.
As for the Chapin Estate, which has homes ranging from $500,000 to as much as $15 million, development is proceeding. “Prices have gone up 400 to 500 percent since the project’s inception,” said Steve Dubrovsky, the developer, who bought the land in 1999 and began selling homes there the following year. So far, 125 have been built, with room for nearly 500 more.
Late next year, the Dream Hotel Group is set to open the Chatwal Lodge, a luxury hotel, on the property. And there are other attractions nearby, including Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, N.Y., and Resorts World Catskills, a $1.2 billion project to open in Thompson, N.Y., next year.
“We wanted a place that was within two hours of the city, and the fact there will be a casino is a plus, because poker is my hobby,” said Linda Kenney Baden, a lawyer who is building a large one-bedroom farmhouse on the lakefront at the Chapin Estate with her husband, Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist.
The original Chapin estate, owned by Chester W. Chapin, a steamship and stagecoach magnate, was 25,000 acres with lakes and large rock outcroppings. Mr. Dubrovsky tried to preserve that feeling in the contemporary version, limiting the number of roads and specifying a minimum parcel size of five acres (some parcels are as large as 20 or 30 acres). “We are the opposite of a cookie-cutter subdivision,” he said. “It looks very much like the Adirondacks did back in the early 1900s, with the great houses, lakefront properties and big camps.”
Back at Hudson Woods, buyers are drawn by more modest amenities.
“I was just looking for a place to be quiet, a chance to be still,” said William Lee, the owner of the midcentury furniture store Modernlink, in SoHo, who recently bought a home in the development. “I had thought about Montauk, but it became too much like New York City. And, of course, there’s the price. This area is not only peaceful; the price makes it very achievable.”
Mr. Lee, who met Mr. Lang while doing interior design consulting on some of the architect’s New York City projects, was an early visitor to the site. “These cabins have a super-Scandinavian approach: They aren’t lavish, but they are clean and soulful in their own way,” he said. “I went up there, wandered around and then, at one point, I found a spot. And I just felt like, ‘This is it.’”