How a Gorgeous Cape Cod Property Went from an RV Park to Upscale Cottage Community
For years, this stretch of Dennis Port served as an idyllic escape for summertime Cape Cod-goers.
During its peak popularity, the area was a campground where families pitched tents and, in later years, parked their RVs. Families returned to the area, then known as Grindell’s, year after year, forging relationships with others who shared the same vacation spot.
However, when Mark DeWitt inherited the beloved campground from his family in 2010, an inspection by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection revealed some unanticipated problems. The inspectors demanded that DeWitt install a new, state-of-the-art wastewater system at Grindell’s—and it wasn’t going to be cheap.
DeWitt then called upon real estate development lawyer Rob Brennan in hopes of totally redeveloping the property to justify the cost of the new system. But, what ensued wasn’t the big-bad-developer-versus-small-town-folk story that you’d expect—rather, DeWitt and Brennan turned to the village of Dennis for guidance in how to redevelop the property, attempting to keep them involved every step of the way.
“We learned just by listening to other people’s experiences and stories,” Brennan recounts. “People would come forward and tell us stories about their connection to that neighborhood, that RV park. It became very clear that people loved their summers there, and that the connections and experiences they had there became a big part of their life, even off-Cape. That’s how we finally saw the most valuable aspect of this property: its ability to connect families with one another and to be the backdrop of summer memories.”
After hearing stories from the people of Dennis about Grindell’s, Brennan and Dewitt knew that their redevelopment needed to foster the same sense of community that the original RV park had if it were to succeed. They decided to attempt to—in Brennan’s words— “turn the clock back 50 years,” to a time when “a place on the Cape” often referred to small-scale summer cottages instead of the massive trophy homes that dot the coastline today.
“Fifty years ago, it wasn’t about the size of your cottage,” Brennan says. “It wasn’t about the furnishings inside. Cottage colony life on Cape Cod was about the connections that you had with other families there.”
Bringing that simplistic, communal way of living into the 21st century wasn’t easy. “I think that was the most daunting challenge,” says Brennan. “We were trying to take what happened organically, over the course of decades and generations, and develop that anew.”
To meet this challenge, Brennan and DeWitt called upon the architects at Providence’s Union Studio. Eventually, Brennan, DeWitt, and primary architect Douglas Kallfelz created the land plan for the redeveloped space. Christened “Heritage Sands,” the eight-acre development became the Cape’s first new oceanfront cottage community in 50 years. The cottages hit the market pre-construction in 2014.
All 63 cottages of Heritage Sands are laid out in groups of six to ten. These “pocket neighborhoods,” as Brennan calls them, are all situated around a common green, encouraging neighborly interaction. Paths leading down to the property’s 600-foot stretch of private beach wind around the cottages, creating an active flow of traffic through the neighborhood. Plus, each home boasts a front porch, a feature that Brennan deems essential in the creation of a tight-knit cottage colony. “The front porch becomes your front-row seat into your community,” he says. “It fosters those casual connections that grow.”
For some, the community aspect could feel a little too close for comfort. But Brennan encourages summer home hunters to keep an open mind about the concept. “You’re not forced to interact,” Brennan says. “But if you put the dots close enough together, they get connected.”
And now, Brennan can confidently say that those connections have in fact been made.
“At the end of that first summer, we were already seeing kids who had just met sharing teary goodbyes, referring to each other as best friends,” he says. “That’s when we knew we had really succeeded.”
Heritage Sands offers one, two, and three bedroom cottages; they start at $455,000. Visit heritagesands.com for more information.