Del Mar homebuilder’s unique Oaks Farms project named ‘Nation’s Best New Community’

Amid rolling hills and large oak trees sits a world-class equestrian center in the upscale community of Oaks Farms. During a typical day, you’ll find horse trainers and riders on the 20-acre property located in San Juan Capistrano. Developed by the Del-Mar based homebuilder Davidson Communities, Oaks Farms has been the recipient of multiple awards.

In January, it was named the nation’s Best New Community by the National Association of Home Builders. The Oaks Farms also received top honors for Best Landscaping and Best Interior Merchandising.

“I’m honored and delighted, but most of all so pleased for the team who worked so hard and so well together to make this happen,” said Bill Davidson, president of Davidson Communities. “The Oaks was literally a once-in-a-lifetime project.”

Thirty-two single-family homes, currently under construction in the gated community, feature open floor plans and indoor/outdoor living. The architecture is a combination of Farmhouse Modern and Adobe-Ranch.

The Oaks Farms was also recognized as North America’s Project of the Year at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference 2016 Gold Nugget Awards ceremony and Best New Community from the Southern California Building Industry Association.

“For us, this is the Triple Crown of homebuilding,” said Bill.

Once owned by Joan Irvine Smith, the great-granddaughter of the legendary California pioneer James Irvine, the property was sold to Davidson Communities in 2013. Bill said the goal was to preserve and enhance the history of the area while incorporating modern advancements. “It was a huge responsibility and we took it very seriously,” he said.

This included preserving 12 heritage oaks estimated to be more than 100 years old. In addition, hundreds of other trees and native plans were saved. The live oaks were relocated and can now be seen gracing the entry to the community as well as on the perimeter streets. Smith’s vintage rose garden was also preserved.

The Davidson team established an on-site nursery to propagate oak seedlings, ornamental shrubs and multiple succulent varieties, which were then replanted throughout the 20 acres.

Original materials from old barns, fences, railing and stalls were also preserved and used throughout the property. Part of the project included renovating the equestrian facilities and The Oaks Farms now has two riding rings, a lunging ring, 10 turnouts, two new tack rooms and a new laundry room. A 2,250-square-foot Social Barn, which includes a stone fireplace and barbecue facilities, was built for spectators. The equestrian facility is operated independently from the enclave of new homes.

Bill said it took a year and a half to obtain the necessary approvals to move forward on the project. It is estimated to take an additional year to build the final phase of homes.

“We went as far as the East Coast in search of a comparable project and couldn’t find anything as special as this property, where we could successfully marry horses and houses,” said Bill. “We were pleased that the City of San Juan Capistrano was so cooperative and supportive of the project.”

“Hearing the news that The Oaks Farms won the Gold award for Detached Community of the Year at The National Awards was an absolutely incredible moment,” said Dawn Davidson, president of Design Line Interiors, the company that created the award-winning interior design at The Oaks Farms. “From the second our team began working on The Oaks Farms, we instantly realized what a unique and special project it truly was.”

She said the land alone is enriched with a fascinating historical element. “We were determined, as designers, to bring that history to life while enhancing the natural beauty that the legendary equestrian center had to offer,” said Dawn. “Staying true to the original heart and soul of the property was an aspect that was extremely important in our journey to design.”

Dawn added that it was a great honor and privilege to be part of something so spectacular. “We are overjoyed with the recognition and positive feedback that the community has received from the building industry and beyond,” she said.

Davidson Communities was established in 1978. The company’s first project, Leucadia Village, was opened off the I-5 freeway in Leucadia. Since then, the company has built more than 45 new home communities throughout California. They include San Francisco, Marin County, Rancho Mirage, San Diego and the California Delta.

The company has also renovated several historic structures. These include the four-year restoration of the Canfield-Wright House in Del Mar — a Spanish Revival mansion built in 1910; and the Amy Strong Castle in Ramona — the centerpiece of Davidson’s Mt. Woodson master-planned community. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We’ve been very fortunate to find assets like The Oaks Farms, the old Amy Strong Castle at Mt. Woodson, and the old Canfield-Wright House in Del Mar,” said Bill. “We get a tremendous amount of pleasure in restoring and enhancing these unique properties. If you haven’t seen The Oaks, you really should—whether you’re an equestrian lover or not.”

Over the years, Bill said he has seen many changes as a homebuilder. “The changes I have observed have been in the way people live,” said Bill. “The trend has moved toward the great room concept and as much flexibility in the floor plan as possible.”

Bill said his greatest joy is “when homeowners tell me how much they enjoy the house we built, and that they have turned it into a home.”

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