CapeBuilt Development LLC is bringing back the affordable beachfront cottage to the shores of Cape Cod.
In 2010, CapeBuilt Development LLC began the planning to take on a historic task – bringing back the affordable beachfront cottage to the shores of Cape Cod. The opportunity arose through CapeBuilt’s partnership with the owners of an 8-acre waterfront campground/RV park that was founded close to 80 years prior. The campground had been universally loved by generations of families who vacationed there, but was being forced to consider redevelopment scenarios in order to comply with modern wastewater and environmental regulations. CapeBuilt’s proposal was to create Heritage Sands as a modern-day “cottage colony” of 63 homes on prime waterfront land that the preceding decades of development would have slated for trophy homes or a boutique resort.
The challenges faced by CapeBuilt included the fact that during the intervening 50 years since Cape Cod’s last oceanfront cottage neighborhood was built, local zoning had all but prohibited the high-density, small-footprint housing in favor of larger lots and McMansions; coastal building codes had radically increased construction standards; FEMA was in the process of redrawing coastal flood zones; and prospective buyers had become much more aware of the risks posed by “superstorms.” Successfully navigating this regulatory landscape, affordably storm-proofing diminutive cottages, and recreating what having “a place on the Cape” has meant to families for generations would prove to be no easy task. It required CapeBuilt to work closely with local officials; to make efficient use of cottage-scale living space; and to think outside the box when it came to tough, speedy construction for families wanting to move into their cottage in time for Fourth of July fireworks.
Dennis Port, Massachusetts, is the historic epicenter of the Cape Cod “cottage colony.” Dating back to the 1930s, Army tents throughout the coastal campgrounds evolved organically into simple cottages. Year after year, families stayed for longer stretches of summer, friendships with fellow “campers” became stronger, and industrious family members brought just enough creature comforts to their new summer homes. When planning Heritage Sands, the team had to look no further for inspiration than the historic cottage colonies that remain to this day just down the street – where second, third and fourth generations return annually to cottages often no larger than backyard sheds. They return because tiny summer homes are their “place on the Cape” – a term that means more than a physical address. These cottage neighborhoods are where best friendships are forged; where eventual spouses first meet as pre-teens; where tricycles lead Fourth of July neighborhood parades; and where summertime memories are made in a setting that is safe, familiar and handed down from generation to generation. Replicating that same defining community fabric that evolved over generations would start with thoughtful land planning.
Heritage Sands lead architect Douglass Kallfelz was up to the land-planning challenge, and the town of Dennis adopted new zoning, drafted by Town Planner Dan Fortier, that allowed higher densities for the redevelopment of existing seasonal properties. Their cooperative land-planning efforts were recognized by one of the four 2015 PRISM awards that Heritage Sands received from the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston. Kallfelz created “pocket neighborhoods” where the front porches of clustered cottages face onto common greens and crushed shell pathways, and where casual daily interactions among neighbors could occur naturally. It’s beachfront New Urbanism, and the market warmly embraced it as a welcome break from fenced-off trophy homes that had dominated new Cape Cod waterfront construction for decades.
In addition to providing the framework for the neighborhood’s Old Cape Cod community fabric, pocket neighborhoods also helped position Heritage Sands as a “smart buy” for buyers seeking a combination of premier location, quality construction and affordable price. With densities of up to eight units per acre, coastal land costs were spread over far more units that underlying 1-acre zoning would have allowed. In addition, the common greens and pathways running perpendicular to the beach created expansive view corridors. The end result was that water views extended far deeper into the site and individual cottage buyers carried a small fraction of total land costs.
With land planning completed, our team focused next on cottage design and durability. Our goal was to marry the Cape Cod vernacular with resilient design, low maintenance exteriors, and construction specifications that would exceed code requirements for coastal construction, high wind and wind-borne debris. We stayed true to Cape Cod tradition by using cedar shingle siding. But paired the cedar with Boral TruExterior composite trim boards in favor of their low maintenance and dimensional stability across extreme swings of temperature and humidity. Construction specs included foundation-embedded hurricane strapping and flood vents; extended application of ice and water shield; increased R-value insulation in exterior walls; and impact-resistant glazing on all windows. Attention also was paid to the then-pending FEMA flood plain revisions, and elevations throughout the site were raised above base flood elevations wherever possible.
With floor plans and construction specs in hand, we then considered means of construction and decided on a modular build. From our perspective, the benefits of modular included a climate-controlled build environment – as opposed to the unpredictability and challenges of a coastal setting; minimized on-site staging and materials storage; speed of delivery; and reduced construction noise and disturbance for our owners and the surrounding neighborhood. In our opinion, any premium due to transportation charges was more than offset by savings from financing a shorter construction timeline and the increased value recognized by educated buyers. When our modular facility was firing on all cylinders (candidly, there were hiccups along the way), we were able to deliver a completed cottage to our buyers in as little as 14 weeks after contract. This went a long way toward helping us deliver cottages in time for summer.
With respect to neighborhood amenities, the centerpiece of Heritage Sands is more than 600 feet of private beach overlooking Nantucket Sound. Three jetties offer prime fishing spots and help protect against beach erosion. Access points to the beach include a ramp that provides mobility assisted and emergency vehicle access, and allows beach launching of sea kayaks and Sunfish. Other amenities include a private pool, covered veranda and a clubhouse that features a common lounge, fully-equipped gym, and catering kitchen for special neighborhood and family events.
The neighborhood covenants also contributed greatly to defining Heritage Sands as a relaxing summer cottage colony. While each cottage is free standing, we opted for a condominium form of ownership. All exterior maintenance and services are the responsibility of the condo association, and are performed by on-site professional management. Monthly fees include two reserve portions: the first is a typical community reserve for roads, clubhouse amenities and capital improvements; the second is a unit-specific reserve that establishes savings for each individual cottage. Buyers and owners find comfort in knowing that a reserve is established for extraordinary maintenance or repairs to their cottage. More importantly, they know that a reserve is in place to maintain the appearance of the cottages on either side of them.
The challenges in developing Cape Cod’s first new oceanfront cottage colony in 50 years were significant, but the planning and hard work has paid off. For the past two years, Heritage Sands has led the Cape Cod real estate market, and just over a dozen of the 63 cottages are still available. As a vote of confidence, some of our earliest buyers have already upgraded to larger cottages to accommodate growing children and successive generations. Multiple industry awards now adorn our sales office. However, the moment that we point to most proudly came at the end of our first summer, when a group of 9- and 10-year-old residents bid each other a tearful goodbye as “best friends” and started counting down the days until they would regroup on their bikes and boogie boards at Heritage Sands. We knew then that we accomplished our ultimate goal and had established Heritage Sands as a “place on the Cape” to which families will return for generations.
Robert L. Brennan, Jr. is the president of CapeBuilt Development LLC and developer of Heritage Sands – Cape Cod’s first oceanfront cottage community in more than 50 years, located in Dennis Port, Massachusetts. For more information about Heritage Sands, visit www.heritagesands.com.