Creating Communities – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Is White Oaks Savanna a city? No. You could retire there, but it’s not a retirement community. It’s what developers call a sanctuary. 

White Oaks Savanna is set on a sprawling 320-acre site of rolling prairies on former farmland just west of Stillwater. Given the scale of the property, a typical developer could build hundreds, if not thousands, of homes on the land. But business partners David Washburn and Bob Appert had a very different idea. 

The master-planned concept calls for putting just 30 homes on the expansive site, with each buyer taking a 5-to-7-acre lot. Packages for land with a home on the property cost about $1.5 million. Technically, White Oaks is in the town of Grant. “This property is amazing, iconic,” says Appert, owner of Redstone Builders and Architectural Homes. 

Appert says that they rejected the idea of using a design-build template to avoid a cookie-cutter project. With design-build, projects are designed by the builder. Instead, architects are involved at every level of White Oaks: master planning, home siting, and home design. Designers have to be members of the American Institute of Architects to be involved. 

Appert mentions The Sea Ranch project in California, a legendary architecturally planned community in northern California, as one source of inspiration. He also mentions Deer Hill Preserve as a concept that they studied “to a certain degree.” Deer Hill Preserve is on a 170-acre site, including 90 acres of preserved open space, in Orono and Medina. Deer Hill Preserve is slightly denser, with 40 home sites; lots remain available for sale.  

Other metro projects that echo the creation of a new, stand-alone neighborhood include The Cove on Lake Minnetonka, which is completely sold out. Some lots in the adjacent project, The Woods on Halstead’s Bay, which includes a total of 40 sites, remain for sale. 

Appert says that White Oaks is a draw for buyers looking for a luxury home with an artistic flair. He says that they have 20 lots left to sell, but they’re in no hurry. Under their original plan, they have four more years to sell out the project. 

“We’re trying to live as gently on the land as possible,” says Appert. 

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