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Mike and Susan Seeland were craving balance. That is, “a balance of developing land and dedicating it to nature,” as the third-generation developers put it. And so in 1994, they purchased 194 acres in Medina and Orono. They set out to conserve what could be saved — including a rare tamarack bog and remnant maple-basswood woodlands — then restored the rest into native prairie. Today, 90 of those acres are permanently preserved and serve as the namesake for the Deer Hill Preserve community.

“It was already a beautiful piece of land, but we knew it would require conservation-minded development,” notes Susan. “Our entire family was committed to ensuring this project was successful.”

This was no small feat, and special attention was paid to even the tiniest shrub. To start, the Seelands planted some 4,000 trees. When it came time to pave the roads, they designed them to conserve as much land as possible, relocating 30 oversize oak trees that otherwise would have had to come down. They saved an additional 15 trees through careful management of the grade and margins.

Photography by Landmark

Under the guidance of St. Paul’s Landbridge Ecological and internationally recognized expert Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin, the Seelands cultivated a landscape that would restore to natural prairie while complementing a livable neighborhood. They didn’t want residents to have to wade through eight-foot-tall grass to borrow a cup of sugar, so they planted short grass varieties like little bluestem and prairie dropseed. They also sowed 14,000+ plugs that this summer will bloom into dozens of flowering plants, including pollinator-friendly liatris, heliopsis and butterfly weed. 

The duo approached the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to sign on as a partner and to hold the conservation easement. “The most powerful watershed district in the state wanted open spaces to help filter and clean water — and we wanted the same thing,” Susan explains. “So we provided a corridor through the community that ties the wetlands together with an open field for wildlife.”

With conservation and restoration well underway, it was time to think about the residents of Deer Hill Preserve. Landscape architect Roland Aberg of Hart Howerton provided the vision and focus for the overall concept, while architect Andrea Swan consults on the design review for each home. “Her dedication has resulted in significant architectural improvements,” Susan says. “She’s really got a good eye.” 

Next, they enlisted four top builders: Elevation Homes, John Kraemer & Sons, Swanson Homes, and Wooddale Builders. “They all have slightly different styles, yet all are excellent at what they do,” she adds. “Working with a limited group of builders has helped fulfill our vision.”

Taken altogether, Deer Hill Preserve is a sanctuary for humans, flora and fauna. Sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans consider themselves part of the community, which boasts a two-acre park that serves as a communal gathering space. Residents enjoy all the benefits of living within a natural landscape yet remain within minutes of vibrant downtown Wayzata’s dining and shopping. Parents can rest easy knowing their children have access to not only wide open spaces but also one of the best school districts in the state. Neighbors have space to breathe but also to gather. Added paths and trails will allow for easy exploration. The Seelands make cultivating a community look like a walk in the park, quite literally.

From the Ground Up

Meet the builders of Deer Hill Preserve.

Photography by Landmark

Elevation Homes

A division of Streeter & Associates, Elevation offers its clients trusted guidance while expertly building thoughtful, design-oriented residences that perfectly complement both urban and rural developments. The team helps choose the ideal lot, leads the selections process, and integrates its building expertise to create efficiency, value and a rewarding experience.

Photography by Landmark

John Kraemer & Sons

Since 1978, John Kraemer & Sons has built and remodeled some of the finest homes in Minnesota. The company is renowned for its superior quality and customer service. The brand’s collaborative, transparent and ethical approach to business has earned it the title of Builder of the Year a record four times.

Photography by Spacecrafting

Swanson Homes

This third-generation family-owned company is passionate about designing and crafting distinguished living spaces. Swanson has a reputation as a trustworthy partner in the design/build process. The firm’s inspiring work ethic and dedication to guiding principles bring projects to life and instill a sense of pride in everyone involved.

Photography by Landmark

Wooddale Builders

Since 1975, Wooddale has been a leading builder of Minnesota’s custom luxury homes. The company partners with leading architects and has a dedicated team of construction experts. Working in close collaboration with clients, the firm designs and builds custom dream homes.

To learn more about Deer Hill Preserve or to schedule a visit, head to

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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