More than 170 years ago, author Henry David Thoreau camped out in the Massachusetts wilderness to experience life away from civilisation.
His life near Walden Pond has seeded an idea for a new housing development that marries an idyllic setting with internet, electricity, and other creature comforts of the 21st century.
Walden Monterey is a 22-home enclave set on 609 acres overlooking the California coastline. It’s the latest extension of the “agrihood” trend, in which millennials turn away from the golf communities beloved by baby boomers in favour of “agricultural neighbourhoods” that offer ample green space, farms, and outdoor community kitchens, among other amenities.
The community at Walden Monterey is still under construction, and no homes have been built yet. The lots will sell for about $A6.5 million each — a price tag that only includes the land.
The developer of Walden Monterey is betting that tech executives, looking to unplug from the daily grind of Silicon Valley and reconnect with nature, will find respite. Take a look.
In 2016, Nick Jekogian, a real-estate developer from Manhattan, scooped up 609 acres of wilderness in Monterey, California, a coastal area about an hour's drive from Silicon Valley.
At the suggestion of a construction manager, he pitched a tent and decided to stay a few nights in order to get a feel for the land and an understanding of what made it special.
'When you're sitting under a 200-year-old tree that's going to live another 200 years, you think differently, you think bigger,' Jekogian told Business Insider.
He scrapped his golf-course plans and set out to create a gated community that would put contemporary homes in a natural setting. Walden Monterey was born.
There's a growing market for these kinds of communities. Millennials famously value experiences over material things. Real-estate developments focused on clean living and community, known as agrihoods, appeal to the farm-to-table-loving generation.
It will contain 22 private estates, with unspoiled-hillside lots averaging 20 acres. Because of the land's proximity to Silicon Valley, Jekogian expects young tech executives will move in.
The lots will sell in the ballpark of $A6.5 million each. But residents don't get a home for the sale price; it includes the land only. Residents will pay additional millions to build their homes.
The developer has assembled a team of more than 20 architects, designers, builders, and artists to create the overall design vision for the project.
Residents are welcome to hire the architects who created concept homes for Walden Monterey, or they can hire an outsider. Jekogian said the developer will not be closely supervising build plans, which should bring a variety of architectural styles to the hillside in Monterey.
The 'Moss house' concept from Larson Shores Architects is a 3,500-square-foot abode that seems to roll down the hillside like the Spanish moss that grows on the project site.
The home concept features 360-degrees views out its floor-to-ceiling windows. The asymmetrical rooflines are intended to be a reflection of the geography, according to the architect.
Axelrod Architects designed a 5,000-square-foot home comprised of a 'glass box floating above the ground with minimal impact on the land below,' according to the architect.
Walden Monterey will also include a 'roving room' where prospective buyers can stay for brief visits. The glass box can be moved to different lots -- wherever the buyer is looking.
'Think of it as Thoreau's cabin 2.0, allowing guests to fully experience the dialogue between man and nature,' reads a press release from Jekogian's Signature Group Investments.
The roving room was designed by architect Alan Williams.
The development has two rules: Use renewable energy sources and don't cut down trees. Jekogian envisions the development having a net-zero impact on the environment.
A net-zero energy building is a structure that produces an amount of renewable energy -- through solar or wind power, for example -- equal to the amount of energy it consumes.
'The list of rules is small, but meaningful. It's about setting a standard of culture,' Jekogian said. 'I believe when you have hundreds of rules, people are out to find ways around them.'
Residents can seek out community or solitude as they please. Walden Monterey will include a massive trail system that connects the homes, an outdoor communal farm table, a Zen meditation garden, a treehouse for kids, and several community gathering spots.
Residents will also have access to a pool, fitness center, golf course, and clubhouse at the nearby Tehàma Gold Club in Carmel. That property is owned by actor Clint Eastwood.
The other half of the 22 lots will come on the market starting in early 2018, after construction crews finish building an infrastructure for utilities. 'This is virgin soil,' Jekogian said.
Walden Monterey hopes to woo the tech elite. Jekogian expects they will use the homes as weekend getaway spots rather than main residences. The homes offer a chance to detox.
Jekogian said he lucked out. 'I own one of the largest pieces of prime real-estate near one of the wealthiest populations in the United States. On top of that, those are probably the same people who are staring at their computer screens and phones the longest,' he said.
'Walden Monterey is for people who are starting to realise they need a break.'