ROCHESTER (AP) -- The six grandchildren of Dr. Charles Mayo, the innovative co-founder of Mayo Clinic, have developed an atypical exurban development -- albeit for those in the upper bracket.
Mayo Woodlands has already won a national award and offers an alternative to the current development of many suburbs.
Farm fields southwest of Rochester won't be plowed into lawns with mini-mansions, but rather prairie grass will live alongside simple modern houses. What lawns there are will be carved from the 5-foot-tall grasses, and long rows of pines will break the wind and create privacy, although walking paths along the trees will foster neighborly exchanges.
Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, said it's the sort of choice people deserve more often.
"We spend endless amounts of time and money and gas decapitating grass," he said. "People go to the suburbs to be close to nature, to have a kid-friendly place and to be in trees. This is giving them all that."
Maria Donovan, the last relative to live in the nearby family mansion -- Mayowood -- is managing the project with her husband, Bernard, and her brother, Ned, who lives in Arkansas. "It was very emotional to decide what to do about development," she said.
The Mayo grandchildren grew up playing in the barns and fields of "Dr. Charlie's" original 3,000 acres, and jointly own the remaining four farms.
Three years ago the family hired the Rochester engineering firm McGhie & Betts to plat Family Farm No. 1 -- a piece of high land south of the mansion and the Zumbro River. The plat preserved a 255-acre woods that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources identified as a significant natural area and divided the remaining 220 acres into a combination of typical large lots of 2 to 5 acres and smaller lots averaging half an acre.
That combination was the most unusual thing about the development plans until Minneapolis landscape architect Shane Coen got involved, said Roger Ihrke, who reviewed the project for Rochester Township. "Now it's even more innovative," he said.
Joined by Minneapolis architect Tim Alt, the team pushed Mayo Woodlands even further from the ubiquitous suburban model. Some of the lots may be large, but the lawns will be relatively small. The streets will look like typical cul-de-sacs, but the long, narrow houses will be arranged on an east-west grid to maximize exposure to the southern sun. Walking paths will follow the half-mile-long windbreaks of pine trees and smaller stone walls and fences.
The houses are envisioned to be even more unusual, simple stucco and wood with flat or peaked roofs and proportioned to fit with the landscape and each other. The architects want metal roofs with towers looking out over the landscape. They want detached garages.
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