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Issue No. 18 | February 2021


All About Sustainability

At Mill District, sustainability is central to everything we do. It drives us to be smart about the way we approach our project. It reminds us to take only what we must as we develop our corner of Wine Country. It encourages us to minimize our impact on the City of Healdsburg as a whole.

Managing Director David Hill calls sustainability our “guiding light,” and that metaphor seems apt.

“Our project is important, but it’s not nearly as important as making sure we tread lightly on everything around us,” he says. All told, there are five components of our commitment to sustainability:


There are two ways to plan development projects: New development on a new site or new development on a site that has been repurposed from a previous life. Mill District exemplifies the latter. Mill District spent more than 80 years as a lumber mill before we assumed possession. It will spend its next lifetime as the new heart of the city. Redeveloping an old site is the ultimate in sustainability. It means that instead of spending time or money to create another beautiful place from the ground up, we found one that existed already and went from there.


At a time when most of the world is spreading out, we believe in going up. The Mill District project rejects sprawl and embodies this philosophy with multistory, multifamily residences that make the most of a relatively small lot. Since we have taller buildings than other projects of similar size, we don’t need as many. What’s more, since we need fewer buildings, we’re leaving less of an impact on the land. This high-density, low-impact strategy makes the project fundamentally more eco-conscious from the start. It means greater sustainability in aspects of the project, even design.


The Mill District project also emphasizes natural beauty, landscaping the new neighborhood as if it were an oasis overflowing with water and life. Our landscape architects, VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture, are essentially creating a “10-acre garden” because of all the native plants they’ve incorporated into the design. A ring of old-growth redwoods outlines our park, providing a natural welcome to all who visit. Don Vita, who heads up our landscape team, refers to these trees as a “fairy ring.” We love the magic and whimsy of his reference.


Mill District is sparing no expense to make this project the most technologically sophisticated in all of Northern California. That means solar panels on every building, electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in the garage, and an expansive recycling program. It also means newer inventions such as collecting rainwater for irrigation, and Silva Cell technology, which essentially creates a subterranean cavern for tree roots to grow. All the power we buy is from renewable energy sources. The better we take care of our environment, the more it will take care of us.


The fifth and final tenet of our commitment to sustainability is perhaps the most fundamental: It’s all about infrastructure. Eventually, when Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit comes to Healdsburg, it will stop across the street. Until then, we designed Mill District to be as pedestrian-friendly as possible, obviating the need for cars. Our hope is that residents and visitors alike will park their vehicles once, then spend the rest of their time in Healdsburg walking from place to place. This approach minimizes traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, it improves our environment across the board.

Also in this Issue

FEATURE Keeping Healdsburg Green

For a relatively rural town of roughly 12,000 people, Healdsburg certainly is embracing sustainability in a big way. The latest example of this commitment: A new floating array of solar panels.

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So what if February is the shortest month of the year? This year, the month is chock full of fun and meaningful things to do—both in and around Healdsburg and in the county at large.

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Meet executive director of the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society. After 25 years working as a historian here, she has more of a commanding knowledge of the city’s past than just about anyone else.

Read More