We had the good fortune of connecting with Steve Nygren and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steve, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think risk-taking is vital to accomplishing any goal or dream, no matter what career path you’re on. When I first envisioned Serenbe as a new model of how to live, to develop with the environment rather than against it, I had a deep background in hospitality and was a very naive developer, so most people thought I was completely crazy. Because of my naivety I did not accept the rut practices that had settled into the residential development community over the past decades. If I had not asked the hard questions of why, Serenbe wouldn’t be the global model it is today – with over 30+ retail businesses, 4 restaurants, wellness services and over 750 residents and growing clustered on 30% of the land with easy access to the green space. We are a global model of how to build communities that sets people first; our values are to connect those people to nature and each other.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Serenbe is a 1,000+ acre community built around core values: health for wellness, arts for inspiration, agriculture for nourishment, and education for awareness and a large helping of play for joy. I initially had the idea for a new type of community development as a reaction against the inevitable suburban sprawl and cookie cutter traditional developments. There was a bulldozer taking down acres of trees right next to our land and 1905 farmhouse that I had retired to with my family, away from the city and corporate treadmill. My fear was that sprawl was heading our way, to spoil the acres of beautiful countryside of Chattahoochee Hills, so I set out to save and protect the land. Over two years, I brought together 500 landowners, planners, and developers to form an alliance and change zoning laws to create a land plan to protect 70% of the total 40,000 acres of greenspace that we now call the city. There were many challenges during those days, but I think what made the largest impact was bringing everyone together to discuss what was to come and take control of our future. I quickly learned that if you keep asking questions, engage people where they are and create conversations, there are many common sense solutions to everyday problems. And most importantly, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t – that’s why we say, “if you want to change the world, start in your own backyard.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Of course, I’d have to say Serenbe. I love bringing friends and family together over a meal, so I’d say we would start with brunch or lunch at one of the restaurants in the community, then walk through the streets visiting the neighbors, shops and art galleries, and then a nature walk through the woods until dinner time. We have many events throughout the year including our annual Designer Showhouse with Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine and this year we are hosting a Biophilia Poster Exhibit in the woods where you can wander the nature trails and see over 100 curated posters strung between the trees. This is a free, socially-distanced event and kicks off September 12th. Friends could also experience the numerous wellness services that have opened over the past few years including a spa, yoga studio, take a pilates class, visit any of our incredible health providers or try goat yoga located near The Inn at Serenbe at the Animal Village. And if we’re planning to meet up in Atlanta, I always love to explore the many new restaurants always opening along The BeltLine.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Ray C. Anderson, who was a close, personal friend and inspiration for Serenbe. His vision lives on in the Ray C. Anderson Foundation that is helmed by his grandson John Lanier.
Other: Serenbe Stories Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/297821
Courtesy of Serenbe