Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Can Tract Homes and Tractors Mix?

In a startling article in today's New York Times, developers of subdivisions are dropping the once-ubiquitous golf course-with-every-development and instead are starting to include organic farms as a key part of their communities.

In the article, Ed McMahon, a senior fellow with the Urban Land Institute, said, "There are currently at least 200 projects that include agriculture as a key community component."

"Open space improves the return for a developer," he said. "We have 16,000 subdivisions around golf courses, where developers found they could charge a lot premium of 25 to 50 percent over comparable tract subdivision. But most people who live on golf courses do not play golf."

The article continues, "at the 220-home Serenbe project near Atlanta’s airport, the cachet of local produce has been added to retiree-friendly businesses, including galleries, a bed-and-breakfast and three restaurants. Steve Nygren, an Atlanta restaurant impresario, started the project on his 900-acre farm.

"'We preserved forest and pasture, and there were 20 acres left for an organic farm, and we also have a large wildflower meadow,' Mr. Nygren said. 'We’ve set up the design so 90 percent of the houses back up to one of those natural amenities. We are selling our lots at a premium that’s probably three times what the raw lot is.'

"Gus Burti, who lives with his wife, Maggie, at South Village [in Burlington, Vermont], says the farm helped clinch their purchase after a two-year search of the area. 'We used to live on a golf course in North Carolina and wanted to come back to Vermont,' he said. 'My wife loves to cook, and we like that it’s organic.'"

Photo by Paul O. Boisvert for The New York Times.

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