First Buyer at North 40 is Relishing Her Triumphant Return to Los Gatos

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Mary at Home
Mary McLean enjoying the afternoon as neighbor Tina Bean walks her dog. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

She used to live just up the road, but was forced to leave Los Gatos by circumstance. But now, Mary McLean, 55, has returned triumphantly. 

She played a guessing game with this reporter, during the recent Chamber of Commerce Wine Walk.

The rhetorical question: “Who was the first buyer in North 40?”

She reveals the answer: “Me!”

Mary McLean is a joyful person, just brimming with life. She’s faced hardship. And she’s overcome adversity.

WELCOME HOME – Canadian expat Mary McLean is thrilled about her new North 40 existence. She was the first person to buy into the development. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

The Canadian expat struggled to find her way back to Los Gatos, as she followed the roller coaster ride that was Phase 1 of the North 40 housing development in the northern part of town.

But she’s finally arrived.

“I feel very comfortable here,” she said. “It’s funny how life can turn around.”

The Los Gatan checked with SummerHill Housing Group, and her story checks out.

Annabelle Salum, the company’s director of marketing, confirmed McLean was the first of 30 buyers to close before the grand opening, held Saturday.

McLean’s lived in Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver and Duncan, British Columbia.

She now works as the director of purchasing for a Silicon Valley tech company.

A painful divorce caused her to decamp from Los Gatos, first to the Aventino Apartments, then to Campbell.

She couldn’t be happier about returning.

“I moved in three weeks ago,” she said, adding her 22-year-old son lives with her. “My son is happy, so it’s all good.”

She jokes about how her daughter gives her a hard time about how she moved into a place in a development that got a lot of press over the years for having some “affordable” units.

‘It started, and then it died, and then everyone said it was okay.’

—Mary McLean recalls the ups and downs of the North 40 Phase I approvals process.

She laughs because the $1.6 million price tag isn’t anything to sneeze at.

But, to McLean, it’s definitely worth it.

“I feel so happy; I feel like I’m home again,” she said, adding, “My neighbor is so nice.”

Last Thursday, McLean opened her door as construction equipment whirred, workers smoothed out concrete and trucks beeped as they reversed.

There was her neighbor, Tina Bean, walking her dog.

“We’re brand new neighbors,” McLean said. “And we’re fast friends.”

They’ve been planning to get together to drink wine, but with all the moving-in and whatnot, they hadn’t quite had the chance yet.

Tina Bean and her dog. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Bean’s resided in Los Gatos for two decades, and previously lived off Broadway downtown. And while she may not have been the first to buy into the development, she’s definitely a North 40 early-adopter—along with her daughter. They took possession on Sept. 15.

So, given all the scaffolding dressing skeletal units around them, can it possibly feel like a neighborhood yet?

“Of course it feels like a neighborhood,” McLean said. “It only takes two people to make a neighborhood.”

“That’s right,” Bean affirmed.

“And quote me on that,” McLean added, as the two joined in laughter.

Bean says it’s proved a beautiful experience so far.

For McLean, easy access to cycling trails nearby is a huge plus, so she doesn’t have to drive somewhere to use her bike.

“I can run here,” she said. “I even run on the main road, no problem at all.”

Bean says the workers have been courteous. Plus, with the well-insulated building design, she barely hears them.

“They’ve been lovely to be around,” she said.

“And I don’t hear you at all,” McLean added, loading up for another joke. “I don’t know if you hear me. I hardly ever yell.”

McLean never wanted to leave her house in Los Gatos. After her divorce she tried to find a suitable long-term option in town, but it made more sense at the time to buy a unit built from scratch in Campbell.

“But I always had my eye on this development,” she said, adding North 40 was supposed to be up-and-running even before she moved to Campbell.

She recalls attending various community meetings about the North 40 project.

“I wanted this place, and I wanted to know what was going on,” she said, adding she kept her mouth shut as controversy frustrated development plans. “It started, and then it died, and then everyone said it was OK.”

Then it died again.

“My only hope to get back to Los Gatos was this place,” she said. “Because you can’t buy a place in Los Gatos for under x amount of money, right?”

Bellaterra at North 40 Grand Opening Oct. 9 (Courtesy of SummerHill Homes)

She says she was emailing the developer even before the sales office was open.

“Please, can you help me? I’m really interested,” she recalls writing. “I really need to move back.”

And she made it. First.

“I always knew I was going to come here,” she said. “I really am very, very happy being back.”

Mary McLean is thrilled to be back in Los Gatos. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)
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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]