KENNETT SQUARE – A man who has successfully built clusters of residential and commercial buildings, preserving 70 percent of the surrounding landscape in the community in Georgia, will be a well-known speaker on May 17 in Kenneth Square

Steve Nigren, CEO of Serenbe, a residential community bordering on one side an organic 25-acre farm that manages both the CSA and the farming market for the community, will talk about how development can be successful while preserving the surrounding landscape.

Serenbe is an area within Chatahuchi Hills, Georgia, in Fulton County, Atlanta. Serenbe is an example of a new urbanism. Serenbe residences consist of single-family homes and terraced homes. All have porches, but no backyards; they face a common green area and trails. Proximity to shops and services promotes walking. Architectural styles include cottages in the style of arts and crafts, loft-style townhouses and sleek modern “boxes”.

Balancing nature and community

One sign of the times here in Kenneth Square – and in southern Chester County in general – is the “sold out” sign. Homes on the market are selling fast, often at a asking price. As a result of this seller’s market, growth pressures and sustainable inequalities in our communities, municipalities and nonprofits working with people who do not serve the public mean affordable and decent but affordable housing needs. No one who would like an adult child or elderly parents could afford to live nearby, or who knows a family who can’t find housing, or professionals who can’t afford to live in the area where they work, argue. Need more housing and more housing options at different prices.

But most people also experience a slight increase in blood pressure when they see the yellow sign of a planning application – a sense of fear rooted in the preconceived conclusion that what is offered will be more of the same soulless structures that destroy even more landscape.

Experiencing similar tensions more than 20 years ago in the country of Chattahoochy Hill near Atlanta, Steve Nigren decided to save his own backyard – and prove that a balance between nature and community is possible. The result of his vision, hard work and perseverance is Serenbe, an award-winning, sustainable urban village surrounded by preserved forests, home to more than 700 people from all walks of life and from all generations.

Buildings that preserve 70 percent of the landscape

While suburban development schemes today violate at least 80% of the land, Serenbe consists of passageways of houses, shops, businesses and artists ’studios where more people live but only 30% of the landscape is disturbed, so the rest can be forever stored as a public open space.

Steve Nigren

Nygren created the Serenbe community as a model to demonstrate that conserving 70% of the greenery intertwined with agriculture, housing and retail is not only economically viable but also the future well-being of society. The clear and beautiful villages of the Serenbe, modeled on traditional English and European villages, are located within 1,200 acres of preserved forest, bordered by an organic farm of 25 acres and connected by miles of natural trails.

In his presentation in Kenneth Square on May 17, Nigren will share his story – a vision he and his family had to create a community and protect the land in the early days of the environmental movement; the struggle he faced and overcame to be allowed to build with nature rather than destroy the landscape; and the lessons he learned from creating a community better for both people and nature. “It wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t,” he said.

Nigren describes the feeling of being in Serenbe, which is on the outskirts of the capital Atlanta, as “in the middle of nowhere on the edge everywhere.” Over the years of building and living in the Serenbe community, Newgren has seen a central role that the built environment can play in a healthy lifestyle. One of Nigren’s hopes is that history will view Serenbe as part of a movement that has helped return development to responsible use of resources in a balanced way.

A healthy approach to development

“While we know that anti-growth sentiment is incompatible with the pressing needs of our community, we are justifiably afraid of such a development that does more harm than good. Instead of spending innumerable resources to combat the events that are destroying our landscape, we ask people to pause and think about how thoughtful development could preserve and improve the lifestyle and sense of place we cherish here in the Brandywine Valley. ” – says Kennett Collaborative CEO Bo Wright. “Conservation and development should not contradict each other if the places we build are well thought out. South Chester County is rightly proud to be thoughtful and conscientious, and supporting this smart approach to development can put us at stake as a leader in thoughtful development and land conservation. ”

“At this event on May 17, we have a chance to learn from someone who has created something wonderful and world-class, and who has struggled with many challenges – from zoning to utilities, engineering and infrastructure – to maintain sustainability and build a beautiful and quality place.” says Wright.

“Nigren believes that our places should fill us with a sense of awe,” Wright says. “And they should. The number one question asked by community members about the proposed development at hearings and meetings of the planning committee: “What will it look like?” Often officials cannot answer this question. But it is important. Beauty, quality and human scale are all important in our sense of place. We are led to believe that we must be content with events that do not meet any of these criteria. But thoughtful development is possible, and Serenbe is just one example we can learn from. We just need to look around Kenneth Square to realize that we were able to build beautiful places 100 years ago – and we can build beautiful places again. ”

The Kennett Collaborative How We Build Matters series of speakers with Steve Nygren will take place on Tuesday, May 17, at 6pm at Kenneth Square Presbyterian Church (211 South Broad Street, Kennett Square). All events are free and open to the public, broadcast live, recorded and translated live in Spanish. You can answer here.

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