By Scott Sullivan
A Holland-based lakeshore homebuilder and designer has signed agreement to buy almost all “The Wild Heart of Saugatuck.”
Cottage Home owner Brian Bosgraaf, with financial backing from Padnos Iron and Metal Co. president Jeff Padnos and his wife, Peg, told The Commercial Record his firm plans to close within 30 to 60 days on 309 acres fronting Lake Michigan north of the Kalamazoo River after agreeing on terms with current owner Singapore Dunes LLC.
Singapore Dunes is the local land firm for the estate of Aubrey McClendon, an Oklahoma City natural gas magnate who died in a March 2 car crash.
Bosgraaf declined to disclose the purchase price. The parcel has been listed with Sotheby’s since April for $40 million.
“Cottage Home,” said Bosgraaf, “is dedicated to preserving the natural features of the land. We intend to protect a majority of the property in a conservation easement, assuring it remains in its natural state for perpetuity.
“Moreover, Cottage Home is planning to build exclusively single-family home in clusters, mostly along the water’s edge of the property and where the old Broward Boat manufacturing buildings were.”
“The McClendon estate,” said Singapore Dunes project manager Steven Neumer, “will retain the home on the parcel—a luxury dwelling built in 1991 by Ken Denison on the lakefront—and about 5 acres on the channel mouth that surrounds it.”
Cottage Home has an exclusive right to lease the 5,589-square-foot beach home, with adjoining 1,304-square-foot guest cottage home, and surrounding land for five years, Bosgraaf told The Commercial Record. The firm hopes to eventually buy it.
“Cottage Home will acquire the remainder of the parcel. They are a very fine buyer. We know they’ll respect the property and its environment,” Neumer said.
Cottage Home is well known in the area. Bosgraaf, who worked with his family running Holland-based Bosgraaf Homes before in 2000 launching his more-specialized business building and designing well-appointed beach dwellings, published the coffee table book “Life on the Lakeshore: The Cottage Experience,” sharing the stories of nine family buyers, this spring. It was unveiled during an April 23 open house at Saugatuck Brewing Co.
“Cottage Home,” said the firm in a press release regarding the planned purchase, “has a track record of positive collaboration with the lakeshore townships and cities.
“Over the last 16 years, Cottage Home has designed and built more than 100 homes, the majority located on Lake Michigan. (It) has also built many award-winning lakeshore developments, completed more than 30 LEED-certified homes and been recognized as a leader in implementing development best practices for sustainable communities.”
“We have long recognized,” Bosgraaf said, “that our buyers do not come to the lakeshore because we build cool vacation homes. They come here because this is a great place to live. They come here for the connection to water, the natural beauty of the surroundings and world-class coastal towns.
“We recognize the enormous responsibility we have, and feel we are uniquely qualified to protect this area of the lakeshore.
“We garnered the trust of investor Jeff Padnos because we have like-minded views on sustainability, energy conservation and commitment to the community,” Bosgraaf said.
McClendon, then CEO and co-founder of Chesapeake Energy, acquired much of the subject land in his $39.5 million purchase of 403 acres north and south of the channel from Denison family estates in 2006.
The transaction ended a public effort to buy and preserve what many called “the Wild Heart of Saugatuck” and spurred years of litigation.
McClendon, also owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, sold 173 acres south of the channel to the City of Saugatuck for $19 million in 2009, but continued plans to develop the north former Denison land plus 83 acres he’d purchased east of it, proposing at one point a Singapore Dunes resort with a 66-slip marina, seven-story inn, nine-hole golf course, 100 homes and equestrian area.
In 2012 he and Saugatuck Township settled a federal lawsuit voiding restrictive zoning placed on the property three weeks before he completed buying it.
Singapore Dunes then sought a zoning variance for its resort plan, but withdrew it after township officials made clear they would not support it.
McClendon in 2013 listed his Lake Michigan beach house on 6.2 acres for $10 million, 17 two- to three-acre undeveloped lots near it from $2 million upward and the entire parcel for $40 million.
He withdrew them that August after winning Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approval to build a two-mile paved road and utility access through critical dunes from the parcel’s east portion to the western home sites. That road is essentially complete now.
The owner was killed March 2 in a single car crash less than a day after being indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly rigging bids on oil and natural gas leases in his home state.
Police said McClendon, 56, “drove straight into” an overpass wall at high speed. “There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the road,” said Oklahoma City Police Capt. Paco Balderrama. “But that didn’t happen.”
The department later ruled it lacked enough evidence to rule the death was a suicide.
Singapore Dunes relisted the entire parcel with Sotheby’s a month later for $40 million.
“We’d discussed listing the 18 home lots nearest Lake Michigan last winter,” Singapore Dunes attorney James Bruinsma told The Commercial Record at that time.
“The family’s objective now is to sell the entire parcel,” Bruinsma said.
The relisting, which for that price included the home and immediate land around it, made clear the tract can still be developed.
The 3574 Dugout Road listing, still active as of Friday, calls the land a “private retreat or waterfront investment opportunity in the highly sought-after lakefront village of Saugatuck.”
It includes sweeping aerial views of the 314 acres. “Live in your own sanctuary or develop as beachfront and marina resort,” it says.”
The tract, it goes on, borders Saugatuck Dunes State Park on the north, river on the south and offers uninterrupted views to horizons both ways with no possibility of future adjoining development.
The total parcel includes close to 1,800 feet of lineal fro
“Western acreage is zoned for residential use, which allows multi-family and a private marina; eastern acreage adjoining Blue Star Highway is zoned commercial and may include a hotel and retail or golf course,” says the listing.
“All we plan are single-family homes,” Bosgraaf said.
“We look forward to working with and being a constructive part of a great community,” he said.