Home buyers seek neighborhoods with shared experiences

November 10th, 2020

Original article by Bill Lewis for the Tennessean>

Shared experiences that bring neighbors together, like planting a crop in the community garden, gathering around a fire pit in the evening or strolling along a sidewalk or trail, have become important amenities in neighborhoods across the Nashville region.

In Stephens Valley west of the city, folks like to pause at the door of the welcome center and give Moose, the “welcoming dog,” a pat on the head.

“People love that dog,” said John Rochford, the developer of Stephens Valley.

Amenities that encourage activity, like pools and fitness centers, are still in demand, but “soft amenities” that encourage conversation or simply give residents a chance to relax have gained popularity, he said.


‘It’s not just the house, it’s the community’.

The neighborhood’s shared garden will be ready for planting in the spring and the farmers market on the village green will offer fresh produce. Trails are being added — there will be 7 miles of them — and the dog park and the Silo, where the community Christmas tree lighting is held each year, are popular places for quiet conversation.

“We’ve learned it’s not just the house, it’s the community,” Rochford said of Stephens Valley, a new conservation community where 90 percent of the tree canopy has been preserved along with 500 acres of undeveloped land. Stephens Valley has direct access to the Natchez Trace Parkway, which surrounds the neighborhood on three sides.
“These soft amenities are important. You can walk around and see squirrels and rabbits and the albino turkey. Deer come out of the woods on the amenity area,” said Rochford.

The Stephens Valley Community Church is another place where neighbors can gather. The church opened on property Rochford owned next door and hosts potluck dinners and other community events.

The neighborhood will have a pool, tennis and a fitness facility. The Town Square will have shops, cafes, an ice cream parlor and coffee shops. The disc golf course is a hit.

“It was just an evolution. It wasn’t part of our plan. Things just evolve,” Rochford said of the nine-hole course.

Big gatherings and quiet spaces
In Carothers Farms, the new 2,200-square-foot event barn is ready for weddings, parties and community gatherings, said Katharine Romstad, sales agent for Regent Homes.

The neighborhood, just off Interstate 24 at Burkitt Road, is in Davidson County and has a Nolensville address.
The dog park and community garden are also popular places.

Residents grow tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins and share with their neighbors, said Romstad.
On the north side of the region in Hendersonville, the newest amenity in the Durham Farms neighborhood encourages quiet contemplation.

Veterans Walk, which honors the service and sacrifice of America’s military veterans, was initiated by homeowner Karen Poynor and others. She had the idea after meeting a growing number of veterans and their families living in the neighborhood.

Freehold Communities, Durham Farms’ developer, set aside space and worked with residents to bring the idea to life. Freehold hired Nashville-based HDLA, a planning and landscape architecture company, to assist with the design.

Visitors walk down a path displaying bricks engraved with the names of those who served in the armed forces. A flag pole and a memorial plaque are at the end of the walk, where two park benches provide a place for visitors to reflect.
Bricks will be offered for sale at the beginning of each year. Many bricks include the name of a conflict or a branch of service. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq are represented.

“It’s like a history lesson out there,” said Poynor.

Durham Farms also has a network of trails and open spaces where neighbors can get together. The Farmhouse, the community center at the heart of the neighborhood, has reopened. It features a state-of-the-art fitness facility, community swimming pool with splash pad, outdoor deck and lounge area, free Wi-Fi work café, community conference room and a game and activities area. Among its most popular features are the covered porch and the patio area, where residents can gather and visit.