In the Green Room: Building a sustainable community
Chuck visits Serenbe, a 40,000 acre community about the size of Napa Valley in rural Georgia, and talks to Steve Nygren about the events that inspired him to turn some of his land into a sustainable development. (Video: Hibbotte)
Chuck: Well, here we are at a rather remarkable place with a rather remarkable fellow. The place is called Serenbe - Serenbe Community - which is about 32 miles southwest of Atlanta, Ga. And the remarkable fellow here is Steve Nygren and this is Steve's brainchild. Steve, welcome to Love of the Land, thanks for being with us.
Steve: Thank you. We enjoy having you here.
Chuck: Great. Well, just tell us, first of all, what is Serenbe and how did all of this come about?
Steve: Well, Serenbe is a lot of things. The name Serenbe was developed by my wife. And it is the cross between the words "serenity" and "be."
Chuck: And I think the way it all came about, if I'm correct, is that you and your wife found this place.... Was it about 90 acres to begin with?
Steve: It was 60 acres. And we found it on an afternoon drive in the country with our three small children, who at that time were three, five and seven. Without any intentions of buying anything, we were just having a nice afternoon. And after touring and seeing the beautiful nature, we bought the farm. We had seven years, raising the kids, doing the organic gardens, nice quiet life. And then one morning when we were jogging what along what was our property line, the bulldozers were plowing the forest next to us, and we thought it was houses coming. But even though that immediate threat was not there, we realized that we were in the path of development, being so close to Atlanta and so much available land. And so that began investigating what we could do. And we started meeting with other large landowners that had potential developable land and talking about what we could do to really develop this land in a different way. And that was the creation of the Chattahoochee Hill Country.
Chuck: Right. Now, at present, I think Serenbe Community encompasses about 900 acres?
Steve: We're just at a thousand now.
Chuck: A thousand acres. But, when you look at the outlying community of the Chattahoochee Hill Country, we're looking at how much?
Steve: We have actually changed the land use and zoning for 40,000 acres. And now we are recognized as working with the green space and trail program for 65,000 acres. Now to give you an idea, that's half the size of the inside of the perimeter in Atlanta or Napa Valley is 45,000 acres. So this is a lot of area on the edge of Atlanta - still totally green agriculture, forest, horse farms.
Garnie: So Serenbe, at the end of the day, will be a thousand homes. We'll build those thousand homes on 300 acres, with 700 acres of permanently protected green space. In those thousand homes, right now we have approximately a hundred homes built between Selborne, our first neighborhood, and Grange, our second neighborhood that is under construction. Between those hundred homes we have about 150-160 people living here. Seventy per cent of those people are full-time residents that are here every day and 30 per cent are second home or what we call part-time residents. So what makes our second home residents a little different than some areas is that they are here every weekend.
So, we have people that that live in Atlanta, just forty minutes away that come out here on the weekend because it is close enough to come every weekend. But when you're here, you feel like you are worlds away.