Home sales have opened for a new subdivision on a quiet road near Lake Lonely in Saratoga Springs that’s looking to blend sustainable design with the natural landscape.
Prices for the homes, custom designed by Phinney Design Group, start at $1 million and could go up to $6 million. Scott Varley of Keller Williams Capital District is the real estate agent handling the sales.
The 14-lot development, called Riley Farm, comes from Kenneth Scott, a biotech investor.
Scott bought the 80-acre former farm in the 1980s when he first moved his family to Saratoga Springs. They have lived here part time for the last three decades.
A few years back he tried to sell the 35-acre property off Kaydeross Avenue East. An agent suggested Scott develop the land into a subdivision instead. It took Scott six years to get the approvals in place, and a few years to find the right builder to fulfill his vision for the neighborhood.
“What I’d like to see here is artwork,” Scott said of his vision for the development. “Let this be a piece of art when it’s finished. And I think that with this team, we’re going to achieve that. The demand so far seems huge.”
The subdivision is surrounded by farm and conservancy land, about 3 miles from the Saratoga Race Course and 4 miles from Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The design of the neighborhood is meant to feel private and wooded without the sometimes sterile feeling of a subdivision ready to start construction. Monarch butterflies flutter through a wildflower field. Turtle eggs recently hatched in a retention pond. A creek flows under the main road. Native plants grow wild over the edge of the curb and an old oak tree, estimated to be 17-feet wide, stands in the middle of what soon will be walking trails.
Much of the site work is complete, with internet, water and electrical in place. The homes will have geothermal heating systems and be designed to be all-electric or net zero.
To fulfill his vision for the neighborhood, Scott reached out to Michael Phinney, principal owner and architect of Phinney Design Group. It took a few tries before Phinney returned his call.
“I told Ken, I really don’t do subdivisions,” Phinney said of his firm, which is known for its work on commercial projects like 550 Waterfront on Saratoga Lake, the Common Roots taprooms in South Glens Falls, and the Queen Boat Co. marina on Lake George.
“Our [residential] projects are passions for us. Each one should be unique,” Phinney added. “They’re thoughtfully designed and should be responsive to the site and the people that live in it, versus the traditional model of subdivisions, which is, ‘Here’s Model A, B, and C, pick one and we can maybe slightly change it.’ That’s just not what we do.”
Phinney plans to work with buyers to design the homes in his signature “green development” style, using passive design and sustainable materials. The firm is managing the project’s construction as well, which means only three to four of the homes will be built each year.
“Ken’s vision for the culture and the type of people that he’s hoping to attract here fit really well with our mission as far as what we like to design,” Phinney said. “What we do is truly custom and thoughtful. It’s trying to be the opposite of McMansions — live with less square footage, but have it be well crafted and designed more energy efficient in a way that’s better for the environment.”
Varley said three of the 13 available lots already have deposits. Scott plans to renovate his home, lot 14, which is the property’s original farmhouse. Another lot will eventually be available on part of Scott’s conservancy land across the street.
Construction is expected to start in the spring.
“This is a real jewel. It’s a real gem. Ken calls them treasures. And I use that word too,” Varley said. “This is special enough that I’m planning moving in here at some point in time. I know that the market such as is, if people knew about this and the way I would present it, they’d be massively interested.”
The neighborhood fills another niche in Saratoga Springs’ high-end real estate market, which has remained hot despite a national slowdown in luxury home sales.
Much of the interest in the city is driven by people who have visited Saratoga during the thoroughbred racing season and have decided to make it their permanent or part-time home.
That shift is starting to reflect in the city’s home prices.
The number of homes in Saratoga Springs that have sold for over $1 million has increased significantly in the past five years. In 2022, more than 60 homes sold for over $1 million. Through the first half of 2023, 26 homes have sold for more than $1 million, or about 16% of all sales.
“There’s people who want that country setting in the real estate market that love Saratoga, and it’s hard to find that country setting with other quality homes,” Varley said. “You can drive around and have a nice piece of land [but your view is of] some junky trailers. Here, you won’t see anything except [Phinney’s] beautiful homes and the beautiful land.”