In the hills above Monterey, a unique development is offering an alternative life for luxury home-buyers. The 600-acre forest known as Walden Monterey made headlines two years ago when it promised a nature-minded community for those looking to reconnect with the wilderness.
Now, the 22-lot project is accepting offers.
Each property costs $5 million and covers roughly 20 acres. They’re all vacant, save for the 200-year-old oak trees that dot the scenic landscape. Buyers can build any home they want, but they must adhere to two rules: use only renewable energy resources and don’t cut down any trees.
When developer Nick Jekogian bought the property in 2015, he originally envisioned transforming it into a golf course development lined with Mediterranean villas. After spending a weekend camping and hiking through the property, however, his perspective changed.
“I looked at a 200-year-old oak tree and realized that depending on what we do, it could either be taken down in the next few months or last for another 200 years,” he said. Soon after, he named the project after Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” — a reflection on simple life surrounded by nature.
Each lot is different, with some overlooking the ocean and others nestled into the hillside groves. Buyers can reserve specific lots through pre-sales and own them early next year. Zak Freedman of Douglas Elliman holds the listing.
Jekogian also commissioned architects to draw up blueprints for home designs that complement the specific properties they occupy.
One mock-up calls for a 3,500-square-foot construction split into three parts that descend down the hillside like Spanish moss. Clad in bronze weathered steel, it features jagged rooflines that mirror the rugged topography that surrounds it.
Another focuses on sustainability, offering a 5,000-square-foot glass box with 3,000 square feet of rooftop available for solar panel installation. One — a sleeping pod powered by solar energy and a wind turbine — is being built from a 3-D printer.
“These are contemporary homes that will be light on the land,” Jekogian said. While a $5-million lot usually calls for a mega-mansion, these designs are focused on blending into the natural environment.
He hopes to attract the tech crowd, as the development sits about 90 miles south of Silicon Valley. For prospective buyers, there’s a “try-before-you-buy” cabin they can stay in to get a feel for the land.
Over the last two years, Jekogian has been focused on building a community around the development through Walden Gathering, a series of retreats and discussions attended by innovators seeking environmental solutions through connecting with nature. One recent event explored ways to fund the fight against climate change.
“This is an exclusive community with a purpose broader than the private ownership of 22 lots,” he said.