By David Lyons
When high-income South Florida professionals think about where to build a second home for summer vacations, the conversation often focuses on North Carolina, New England or Colorado. But now, a new alternative is emerging in the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York, just 90 miles north of New York City. The Discovery Land Company, an Arizona-based luxury resort developer, is building more than 200 condos and homes priced between $1 million to more than $10 million in a project that offers a new definition to country living.
Silo Ridge Field Club is an 850-acre gated, owners-only community that features a Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole golf course, an equestrian center, outdoor theater, field house, organic community garden and spa. There will also be facilities to swim, as well as play tennis and basketball.
“What I loved about it was the natural beauty, not only of the site but all of the activities around the site,” says Michael Meldman, chief executive of Discovery Land. “You have hunting, fishing and the great hunt clubs around there that attract people to the area. You’ve got the big beautiful farms. The food is as fresh and creative as you can get. What we try to do with our projects is create more than golf. We like to create the generational development where you can spend time with your families.”
Located in the small town of Amenia, New York, initially a pre-Revolutionary War settlement that lies east of the Hudson River near the Connecticut border, Silo Ridge sits among rolling hills, horse farms, wineries and a clutch of top prep schools. It’s not far from the vineyards of the Hudson Valley. Out-of-region visitors can reach the site by air at nearby White Plains (which has non-stop routes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport) and soon, via a private rail car service out of Manhattan.
Amenia’s name means “a pleasant place,” according to a retrospective by the Amenia Historical Society. “Certainly, the picturesque views from DeLavergne Hill and from Depot Hill Road confirm the appropriateness of the name, as do the pastoral scenes throughout the town,” the society says on its website.
Last year, Victoria Perotti, the town’s supervisor, told The New York Times that Amenia, which has fallen on difficult economic times, welcomes Silo Ridge. She cited a potential 3,000 construction jobs, 200 full- and part-time jobs for local residents and $7.7 million in tax dollars over the next 10 years.
Silo Ridge is on a par with other Discovery Land developments. The privately held company, funded through private equity, has created 17 other properties around the U.S. and in Mexico and the Bahamas. “We have all of the funds to finish the projects,” Meldman says. “It takes away the risk of can you buy early and will it be completed?”
Some South Florida residents may be familiar with the company’s Bahamian enclave called Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club. Situated on Great Guana Cay in the Abaco family islands about 190 miles off Florida’s southern coast, the community features colorful beach bungalows, luxury cottages, another Fazio-designed golf course, club-owned watercraft, and a spa and fitness facility.
Meldman, who calls himself a “real estate guy,” says Baker’s Bay is nearly 75 percent sold out. “They’re all second homes,” he says, with the owners hailing from the South, New York and New England.
Silo Ridge is the company’s first project in the Northeast. Meldman says he is depending on the “power of a drive-up market” from New York City. The project is also drawing buyers from Connecticut and Boston. “We have about 50 families about to start construction,” he says.
The target is between 275 and 375 owners who are expected to buy into a unique model. The buyers’ profile is high-end, “young Wall Street people, private equity and bankers and hedge-fund guys,” Meldman says. There is also a group of well-known athletes. “These places are for people who have had great success and they reward themselves by investing in their families.”
Meldman is a Milwaukee native with a Stanford degree whose initial projects were “golf-centric.” He recalls: “I did a lot of things unconventional to golf,” mainly to inspire more interest in the game and to reduce the intimidation factor for the uninitiated.
For example, he says, “You don’t have to wear a collared shirt on our golf course.” To keep his own children interested in the game, Meldman stashes soft drinks in coolers at every tee spot, later adding candy, ice cream sundaes and hamburgers.
“My attitude is that the golf is always the main amenity,” he says. “Golfers are going to like it and want it. Then… how do you get the wife and kids involved? If it’s a joint decision [to buy], it’s an easier decision to make. We make it fun.”
Originally appeared in the Fall 2016 Issue.