When Dominic Piestrak began gathering builders for a high-end luxury community development in Clarence, New York, a small suburb outside Buffalo, his efforts raised a few eyebrows.
It was the late ‘80s, “and everyone told me you’ll never sell them,” the real estate developer recalls. “At that time, Buffalo was a blue-collar town, centered around construction and industry.”
Compounding matters for any developer, the City of Good Neighbors was struggling as large employers, such as Bethlehem Steel, once the second-largest producer of steel and the country’s largest shipbuilder, moved out of town.
“If you were a decent sized builder, chances are you had already packed up and left,” Piestrak says. “If I was smart, maybe I would have left too, but I’ve learned that if you wait long enough everything comes back.”
So Piestrak’s development company, Dream Settings, steamed ahead with Spaulding Lakes, a 170-plot community development. His company also bought an additional 500 acres next to the community, which has paid off by allowing Piestrak’s team to take advantage of Buffalo’s revitalization.
In 2011, Dream Settings began transforming this land into Spaulding Green, a 500-acre, 500-plot community separated into seven distinct neighborhoods: The Courts, The Glen, The Reserve, The Villas and three other unique lifestyles.
“It’s remarkable how much the city and surrounding suburbs has changed. Today, it’s turned into a white collar town interested in higher end subdivisions,” says Piestrak, who today runs the company with his daughter, Susan. “We were fortunate to guess right.”
Open air meets open terrain
Piestrak’s success in Buffalo is about more than luck.
Since graduating from the University of Buffalo in the mid-60s, Piestrak has built his career in Buffalo’s real estate and development industry, and has picked up a few notions that he’s incorporated into Spaulding Green.
“When I sold real estate, the thing people always wanted, but didn’t always ask for, was the idea that they don’t want to see anyone in their backyard,” Piestrak says.
So when Dream Settings began planning Spaulding Green, Piestrak determined that half of the land would be left undeveloped, providing future homeowners with views of trees, grasslands and lakes.
“This has become a huge selling point for the community because instead of looking out the window at your neighbor’s house, you’re looking out over open space that you can partially own and can use,” Piestrak says.
Yet Piestrak says what people love most about Spaulding Green is how connected the seven neighborhoods are through sidewalks and bike paths.
“It makes sense because if you have young children you don’t want kids riding bikes in the street. But also older people said the same thing, too. They said sidewalks made a development feel safer and more like a community because you see your neighbors walking their dogs and riding their bikes,” Piestrak says.
“We’ve found that homeowners appreciate that when they buy a house at Spaulding Green there is no connection to the house down the street.”
These pathways have been instrumental in fostering the type community Piestrak first imagined in the late ‘80s.
“When we bought the 500 acres, we saw an opportunity to create something that was very interconnected, and I think that is one of the reasons there is so much pride in saying, ‘I live at Spaulding Green.’”
Home sweet home
From the beginning, it was also very important to Piestrak and his team that Spaulding Green offer a variety of homes. But here again, Piestrak says he faced pushback.
“Everyone said we needed to build one type of house in a single price point, but when you’re talking about 500-plot community, we wanted it to have a distinct character,” he says.
To accomplish this, Dream Settings used 10 different general contractors, local to the area, to build homes in a variety of styles from large bungalows, ideal for retirees, to multi-bedroom houses, perfect for new families. The homes on Spaulding Green range in price from $300,000 to $2.8 million.
“This is unique to western New York to have that much variation and that high of a price range, and we’ve found that homeowners appreciate that when they buy a house at Spaulding Green there is no connection to the house down the street,” he says.
In fact, this is why Piestrak says he and his wife moved into Spaulding Green in 2015.
“When you’ve been working on something for over 10 years, it just means so much when people compliment the layout and you see people walking through the neighborhood and enjoying the community you’ve helped create,” he says. “As a developer, there is no greater pride than that.”
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