METAMORA — Thirty years ago, while Dr. Don Klein was practicing medicine in Lapeer, what struck him most was the breathtaking scenery of nearby Metamora.
“I think Metamora means ‘among the hills,’ and it really is very beautiful property; it’s rolling,” says the radiologist from Bloomfield.
Though his late parents had been in real estate for a long time, Klein followed another path. Until he saw the beauty of Metamora. Perhaps it triggered something nostalgic, he says. Whatever the inspiration, Klein and a partner purchased 250 acres of open land.
Years passed, and the partner pulled out. Klein spent his time planting 100,000 pine trees on the land, never quite sure what he’d do with his untouched property. “You do it because you do it,” he says. “My wife called me a wannabe because I have successful developer friends. I moved very, very slowly for a number of years, planting trees, doing conservation studies, working with the forestry department. It was recognizing something beautiful and what could be done with it.”
Today, Klein’s parcel is poised to be one of Metamora’s exclusive developments, Steeplechase Properties LLC. Located in the Metamora Open Hunt terrain where the fox hunts used to carry on, it is already fulfilling dreams that Klein never knew he had.
“This is probably the prettiest parcel I’ve ever had to work with,” says Manny Kniahynycky, project consultant who’s been in land planning for 25 years. One home is completed and another three are under construction. The first phase of homes will include about 19 abodes, with the second phase starting sometime later this summer.
The goal, says Kniahynycky, was “to develop the parcel in such a way that would preserve all of the natural features that were there, more than 60,000 evergreen, spruce and pine, deciduous wooded areas, lots of hills and ravines.”
Lots are an acre with strict requirements for where a house can be placed, how big it can be and what architectural styles will be evoked. Klein wants a sophisticated setting with traditional-looking homes, even if they are new-builds.
Each lot borders an extensive network of parks so residents can simply leave their homes and engage in five-mile walks or jogs without leaving the scenery. Prices begin around $450,000, says Kniahynycky, with lots costing $90,000 to $100,000 and residential development going from there.
According to the bylaws, homes must be traditional in design, made of brick or stone, with dimensional shingles on the roof and variations in color and exterior elevations. Homes must measure at least 2,600 square feet.
“I’ll never be a real estate developer,” says Klein. “I’m a physician, and I’ll always be. This was a one-shot of creating a legacy of some sort. I wanted to do something very, very pretty.”
Chris Fabbri and Ron Elowsky have already met with an architect to draw up plans for their four-bedroom French Country Steeplechase home. They’ll begin building next year, after Fabbri’s son graduates from Lake Orion High School.
“It’s really beautiful,” says Fabbri, who does public relations for DaimlerChrysler. “Each lot has a characteristic of its own. We bought a corner lot, and it’s all pines.”
“I love the fact that it’s horse country,” says Fabbri, noting that the Sunday fox hunts lend an aura to the area. She likes the “rolling hills, horse hunts and quiet surroundings. It’s like how Lake Orion was, the old time country feel, but not too far from the city.”
Before Klein found Kniahynycky, he contacted the Audubon Society about their signature communities program. Although he didn’t go with them, he did adopt some of the ecological concepts for residential development that those programs espouse.
In the end, Steeplechase will include 145 home sites, 90 acres of open space and narrow roads where cars drive slowly and people are the priority. Underground utilities are at least five feet from the edge of the road to avoid “cutting a big swath in front of the lots,” says Kniahynycky.
“We worked very hard to try not to cut down anything that didn’t have to be cut down,” he says. “The first phase is going to be typical of all the other phases. The intent is to develop it in 20-lot phases, slowly, as the market demands. It’s not a mass production kind of development; more a labor of love type of thing, very carefully and sensitively.”
Lynne Schreiber is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer.