HGTV Green Home 2012: Serenbe's story

| by Teena Hammond
HGTV Green Home 2012: Serenbe's story

The HGTV Green Home 2012 is at Serenbe, an eco-friendly sustainable community near Atlanta that focuses on farm-to-table principles, balanced growth and land preservation. Entries for the HGTV Green Home Giveaway begin on April 12.

In the early 1990s, Steve and Marie Nygren were living what they thought was the dream. True urbanites, the couple owned a home in the affluent Atlanta neighborhood of Ansley Park, were active community members and managed thriving restaurant businesses. "We could walk three blocks one way to the symphony and the Hyde museum, and four blocks the other way to the botanical gardens and Piedmont Park," Steve Nygren said on

A Sunday drive in the country changed everything.

Marie Nygren spied an ad for a historic farm for sale, located just 20 minutes south of the Atlanta airport. The couple, with three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 7, had no intention of buying, but they were curious to see open land so close to an urban center. The Nygrens connected with the sellers on that lazy day in the country and fell in love with the circa-1905 farmstead. After buying the 60-acre property, weekend visits became more frequent, and Steve Nygren noticed a value shift — a connection to nature and community. "It was an eye opener for me, watching our family leave this fabulous house in the city," he says. "My girls could hardly wait to get out here, where we had no toys except a puzzle for rainy days."

In 1994, the Nygrens sold their city home, walked away from business and community responsibilities in Atlanta,and settled full-time at the farm, where a small bed-and-breakfast business satisfied their creative impulse. Six years later, encroaching development prompted Steve Nygren to purchase land surrounding his farmstead and join partners in the formation of Chattahoochee Hills, a 40,000-acre city in which 70 percent of the acreage is protected from development.

Serenbe, a 1,000-acre community that includes the Nygrens' original farmstead-turned-inn-and-restaurant, is the first hamlet to exist within Chattahoochee Hills.

Serenbe's master plan is inspired by English hamlets and villages, with an emphasis on balanced growth, a mix of architectural styles, sustainability and land preservation. Three key neighborhoods within the community are divided by a commercial center. Selborne focuses on the arts, with antique shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries and a photography center situated within its confines. The crafts- and organic farming-centric Grange, the location of HGTV Green Home 2012, will boast a blacksmith's shop, glass blowing studio, weaving center, feed store, tack store, farm grocer and casual restaurant overlooking the community lake. Mado, a neighborhood dedicated to wellness, will include a community pool, an early learning center, a gym, assisted living and memory care facilities, senior housing, doctor's offices and the community's own charter school.

At Serenbe, a focus on community encourages residents to interact. The pedestrian grid makes walking far easier than driving; front porches on every home and mailboxes located at busy community centers further foster socialization.

Along with a 25-acre organic farm that provides produce for Serenbe's restaurants, Atlanta restaurants and the neighborhood CSA program, the community boasts a natural wastewater treatment facility and storm water management areas built along wooded trails. Smaller homes, smaller properties, the elimination of lawns and energy conservation are among the community's key principles. In Serenbe, green issues are linked arm and arm with artistic pursuits, as evidenced by The Serenbe Institute, a nonprofit resident-funded organization. The institute fosters visual and performing arts, as well as the community's ecological programs.

A slideshow of images of Serenbe shows the serenity and beauty of the community.

Read more about sustainable communities.

HTGV Green Home 2012 photos courtesy of HGTV, taken by photographer Eric Perry.

Topics: Sustainable Communities

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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