Nestled against the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Indian River, Old Florida is emerging. Forty-seven acres of former citrus groves are being restored and improved to become the North Village, Windsor’s latest evolution.
“About half of the property will be dedicated natural space,” says Mark Justice, Windsor’s vice president of construction and development. “There will be a lot of opportunities for residents to gather outdoors and experience the natural environment together.” Thirty-four homes and six rowhouses will all have green buffers adjacent or water views.
“When we opened up the property by removing the invasive plants and old citrus trees, we could really visualize the plan. It already feels like Old Florida; that is the intent, to recreate what was here before it was cleared for citrus,” adds Justice. “You will see it in the streetscape, in the park.” Justice supervised the relocation of more than 500 mature oak trees and 1,100 sabal palms, the state tree of Florida, and will contract for tens of thousands of native plants.
Alannah Weston conceptualized this project along with her mother, Hilary. The Weston family originally developed Windsor with fresh, new ideas and will continue that forward-thinking for the North Village. “We asked ourselves what a community for the future should look like in the context of a climate and biodiversity crisis,” says Weston. “Our goal was to embed sustainability in every aspect of this project.”
As the former chairman of the Selfridges Group, Weston is well equipped for the task. She started Project Ocean as a way for Selfridges to promote conservation of the global marine environment while adopting more sustainable sources of fish for their stores. “It made sense that the next phase for Windsor would have a similar framework and be aligned with similar values.”
A positive environmental impact starts with the landscaping. The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Association of Gardeners estimate that U.S. homeowners spend nearly $6 billion per year on lawn care and buy roughly 70 million pounds of fertilizer and 125 million pounds of pesticides. Windsor’s North Village is taking a different tack, guided by Edwina von Gal, an award-winning landscape designer and founder of the Perfect Earth Project, who worked closely with the landscape design team of Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang, whose company is called Dept. LLC.
“I have been present for every aspect of this plan,” von Gal says. “It is making me think differently about developers.” Her push for native plants and their benefits will be showcased in Dept. LLC’s plan for the North Village. “There is so much great news about natives in the press right now, so most people are probably well aware that natives evolved without input from humans, so they can manage on their own—no irrigation, fertilization, or pesticides,” she says. “Nature is in charge.”
Water views are part of what makes Windsor so desirable, and the North Village will incorporate water with an eye toward a natural look. The plan calls for two bodies of water: a lake and an estuary. The lake will be ringed with natural plants to filter runoff and give birds a proper habitat, while the estuary connects to the Indian River.
“The estuary is a special component of this plan,” says von Gal. “It is designed to be an extension of the lagoon and will make for a brackish wetlands environment that supports a whole other ecosystem and the wildlife that seeks it. It will become a real living system that needs to be hardly managed, not highly managed.”
Alannah Weston’s vision ensured that the design of the homes in the North Village will be guided by principles of sustainability. “We worked with architect Doug Farr to ensure that we embraced the latest technology to build homes that are energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions,” says Weston. “We will keep Windsor’s signature balconies, shutters, and deep eaves, but evolve the code to encourage a more pared down, minimalist
aesthetic, including earthy colors that blend with the natural landscape.”
Mark Justice will oversee the achievement of certification by the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). “The PHIUS Core program focuses on certifying buildings that achieve exceptional energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality while significantly reducing their ecological footprint,” says Justice. “We will track the design and performance of the homes through energy modeling and verification. The models predict the energy use, and on-site verification ensures that the actual performance aligns with the prediction.”
Windsor was originally designed by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of DPZ CoDesign to follow New Urbanism guidelines, grouping homes together and creating walkable streets and central gathering spaces to encourage resident interaction. In the North Village, the distinctive Windsor look will remain with some updates. Xavier Iglesias, a senior associate of DPZ CoDesign, was named project manager for the original plan in 1993 and is on the design team for the North Village.
“There will be a less formal, less classical look to these homes, but they will remain recognizably Windsor in feel,” Iglesias notes. “A more contemporary look is likely to emerge from the simplification of openings and the removal of requirements that regulate the articulation of eave rafter tails, brackets, and columns.”
The North Village guidelines will strike a balance between the need for privacy and the desire for views. “The opportunity to have a third-floor room or belvedere pavilion will afford views over the mangroves to the Indian River,” he adds. The landscape will have its own personality that will add lushness to the streetscape.
“In the original Windsor design, landscaping was restrained and contained,” Iglesias explains. “Aside from a few bosques of trees in select greens and squares, the denser plantings are mostly a backdrop to the buildings and prominent garden walls. At the North Village, the reverse will occur. The architecture is envisioned to appear less dominant behind a more generously planted foreground of native landscaping.”
With natural beauty taking center stage, homeowners will gravitate outdoors, encouraged by many built-in amenities. More than half of the total acreage will be green space, including trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding. Docks and kayak storage are planned. Boardwalks will extend into the estuary and lake, and a large viewing platform will be erected at the river’s edge.
A full-service fitness center on-site will offer indoor and outdoor opportunities to keep moving. “We are very pleased with the master plan for the North Village,” says Betsy Hanley, president and CEO of Torwest and president of Windsor Real Estate. “Great attention was given to protecting the surrounding natural habitat and blending this final phase of Windsor seamlessly into the existing community.” Hanley sees the health and wellness focus as an enhancement for residents. “The abundance of recreational amenities will create exciting new opportunities for those who enjoy maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
Thus, the North Village is designed for the wellness of both its residents and its environment.