A Little Place Called Serenbe Part 2

Serenbe

Streetlights of Serenbe

By Trish Holder

A Little Place Called Serenbe Part 2

I am convinced that the community of Serenbe never had an unoriginal thought.

I think that’s key when you are trying to sell high-priced homes with relatively small footprints and only slightly larger lots to people who could easily afford bigger houses and more land in the popular suburbs of Atlanta like Buckhead and Alpharetta.  Neither the smallish lots or the price tag seem to be holding Serenbe back.  There’s a little population explosion occuring in this carefully planned out community that is surrounded by 900 acres of protected land in the Chattahoochee Hills.  I think originality may have something to do with it.

 Serenbe Showcase Home features reclaimed wood

Serenbe Showcase Home features reclaimed wood

On my second visit to Serenbe, I tried to put a picture together of what living in Serenbe would be like.  I talked to shop owners and homeowners. I ate at the Blue Eyed Daisy, the local bakeshop and cafe.  I bought coffee and cake at the farmers market.  I shopped at Fern’s market, the general store.  I had a glass of wine while sitting on the porch at The Inn at Serenbe.  I took pictures of horses and donkeys grazing in the rain.  I peeked inside a couple of showcase homes, admiring the creative details using reclaimed wood and other unexpected materials.  I talked to Serenbe’s current artist in residence, acclaimed sculptor and painter, BK Adams, as he worked in the Serenbe artists’ studio.

At every juncture I found something totally unique to any town, community or settlement I’d ever visited.  And little by little, I could see how all those value-added perks add up to create a lifestyle that just might make that $500k+, not-so-big home worth it.

Blue Eyed Daisy in Serenbe

Blue Eyed Daisy is a favorite casual eatery in Serenbe. A great spot for a muffin and coffee, sandwich, or a beer.

 

A Lot To Love, Rain or Shine

I try to describe Serenbe to friends and I get blank stares.  My own husband could not wrap his brain around it until he saw it himself.  It’s just too cool for words.  It’s pastoral, funky, wholesome, and artsy.  Even the streetlights are works of art.  In fact, the arts in are a cornerstone of the Serenbe community.

So is nature.  The populated areas of Serenbe are protected with a master plan that calls for 80% green space — that is land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation.  In this case it includes a 30-acre organic farm, several large pastures, outdoor gathering spaces, 15 miles of wooded walking trails, and additional surrounding forestland.

BK Adams in Serenbe

Highly regarded painter and sculptor, BK Adams, is one of many professional artists invited to temporarily live and work in Serenbe as part of the in-residents artist program.

It doesn’t matter where you are standing in Serenbe, the view is always pretty.  And there’s always something to do, like strolling the Serenbe Farmers and Artists Market or attending a theatrical performance at the Serenbe playhouse.  I’m not kidding.  They have a professional theatre.  An adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow runs from October 10 to October 31st, right there in the middle of Chattahoochee Hill Country, where farm animals practically outnumber the people.

Miniature horses at Serenbe

Horses (including miniatures!), ponies and burros are part of the Serenbe landscape.

Even rainy days can be fun.  Both times I visited Serenbe it was raining and I still had a great time.  I did feel a sorry for a neighborhood mom whose daughters, in their matching pink raincoats, jumped on a common area in-ground trampoline for well over an hour as she stood in the rain.  But a in-ground trampoline!  Come on!  How cool is that?

Is Serenbe As Great As It Looks?

I know it all sounds too good to be true, and for someone like me, who is into every bit of it from the quaint restaurants and shops to the sustainably-conscience homebuilding practices, it’s hard not to fall head over Chattahoochee Hills with Serenbe.  But I’m also a tiny bit skeptical.  A part of me wonders that if you peel back velvety farmland and charming home facades of Serenbe, you might find some of the same problems that have plagued so many “green homes” like moisture problems, improperly designed HVAC, insulation problems, and unrealized efficiency.

Walking trail in Serenbe

A backyard view looks onto one of 15 miles of walking trails in Serenbe.

If not, then every builder, developer, and prospective homebuyer of a new construction home needs to take a closer look at this community approach and try mimic at least a little of what they have presumably accomplished.

I’m on a quest to find the real Serenbe, enjoying every minute of it as I interview homeowners, builders, and others associated with the community.  Assuming more folks are willing to talk (some already have as you’ll soon see), I hope to give my readers an insider’s view of a community that truly has me mesmerized …. and keeps me coming back for more.

Read Part 1 of A Little Place Called Serenbe by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

6 Responses »

  1. I’ve been to Serenbe, and I believe that the homes are too far apart to be ideal.

    As a result, the place is actually pretty car-centic. For many homeowners, walking to the Blue Daisy Cafe is a mile or so, and so they drive there, they need parking, and it adds noise and pollution to an otherwise quiet place.

    I live in an R-60 neighborhood, 60 foot wide lots, and it means that we have greater density and easier walks to neighbors, the school, even restaurants.

    Can you address this in a future article, please?

    Thankx!

    Henry Slack

    • Hi Henry,

      Thanks for the suggestion. I will file it as point of interest in upcoming interviews. I am so happy to have interested and inquisitive readers bring up counterpoints for me to explore with the Serenbe residents — sincerely!

      I didn’t take out my tape measure at Serenbe to measure the space between homes. I can tell you that the completed homes that I saw, particularly in the “The Nest” section, and “The Cottage” areas are pretty darn close by most standards–closer than what I regularly see even in older city limit neighborhoods where the houses are typically under 2000 sq.ft. There are also townhome units and live/work units. There are other sections designated for people who want to spread out a bit, including wooded lots, estate lots, and farm lots, but there appear to be far more occupied homes in the “tighter” sections. I suspect the goal is to provide a little bit of everything, while staying true to the 80% greens space ideal.

      • From afar it just seems like Serenbe encourages a slowing down and appreciation of the here and now, rather than a focus on a destination such as the cafe etc. In any case, a mile..that’s it? That is really not a lot of ground to cover in a casual walk with a friend, and it’s an invitation to burn off the calories you just took in at the café!

    • Hi Henry,

      The Blue Eyed Daisy is across the street from multi-unit dwellings and is right next the “cottage” homes, so while not every home is located closely to the Daisy, several are, including some live/work spaces. I believe that future “hamlets” include plans for at least one eatery per. Right now there are 3 restaurants, and two are well within easy walking distance of numerous residentences.

      As for being car-centric, well, if you work in Atlanta and live in Serenbe, yeah–you’re gonna need a car, and you’ll spend a lot of time in it. The parking issues (which I’ve heard are mainly a problem on the weekends) I suspect are the result of non-Serenbe residents coming to shop and dine. I spoke with one shop owner who said that parking is a problem on non-rainy weekends because of the visitors to Serenbe. I’ve been there during the week and on a (rainy) weekend. There was ample parking both times. I also saw several golf carts — a mode of transportation that is available through rental or sales at a local Serenbe busines, Hill Country Carts. There is also a bike shop. I also believe that while the trek from one end of Serenbe to the other may be a few miles, the many walking paths provide shortcuts to the homeowners.

      It will be interesting to see if they come up with some sort of public transit system — perhaps a golf cart or bike taxi service!

  2. I believe sustainability must incorporate affordability. How does this community embrace this concept?

    • There are plans, I am told, to build a more affordable set of homes in Serenbe. I’m also told that the developer shares your sentiment for affordability. I guess time will tell….

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