By: Elyse Umlauf-Garneau
Set along a stretch of the French Broad River, the 350-acre Olivette is built around a 46-acre working farm that provides produce to local restaurants.
Love, who grew up on a farm, said it’s always been her wish to return to and be close to the land and to help small non-factory farms remain viable. “I’ve been dreaming of this for forever,” she says.
Mary Love has found a way to align her passion, lifestyle, and business vision by moving to and serving as broker for Olivette, an agrihood located less than 15 minutes outside Asheville, N.C.
She shares some of her thinking.
Housing challenges, solutions – Agrihoods could be one solution for many buyers’ housing challenges. Millennials prefer walkability and a sense of community. Seniors don’t want to be isolated or live in institutional settings. Families look for safety and health for their kids. And nature lovers seek ways to lighten their environmental load and want access to hiking trails, water, mountain views, and wildlife. Olivette delivers on all fronts.
Culture, community – “People really want a sense of belonging,” says Love GREEN, a broker with Love the Green in Asheville. “Olivette is more than just a place to live. It’s the community that sells it, not the houses.” She notes that not everyone wants an urban or pocket neighborhood lifestyle and she sees more buyers looking for human connections in the places where they live.
Olivette fosters that sense of community and makes it easy for people to get to know one another. Trails connect the three neighborhoods, and organized events like campfires and dog meetups help people get to know one another. Community gardens, a riverfront park, a kayak shed, a planned farm-amphitheater, and shared bikes, all are ways for residents to build relationships around shared interests.
Living in harmony – Love sees the market for agrihoods increasing. “There’s a whole group of like-minded people who want a community like this, and my strategy is to target people who want to honor the land,” says Love.
Olivette also delivers for those seeking a green lifestyle. In addition to living harmoniously with the land and protecting its integrity, prospective buyers also benefit from a community where pesticides are banned, native plants are a requirement, and all houses rely on development-wide geothermal heating and cooling. Moreover, all houses must be constructed in a way that allows them to achieve a HERS score of 55 or better.
Test case – Love’s house, certified as a platinum net zero through Green Built Homes, serves as something of a model for how green a house can be.
She opted for nearly every green whistle and bell – solar, community geothermal, WaterSense plumbing fixtures, a heat pump water heater, native plants, and permeable materials for driveways, walkways, and patios. She’s also trying out AirRenew®, a formaldehyde-absorbing drywall that promises to enhance indoor air quality.
Expanding the vision – Education about agrihoods will be a new consulting niche for Love’s business. She sees the agrihood concept as replicable, even for developers with plots of land much smaller than Olivette. “Developers need to recognize that agrihoods are something consumers want,” says Love.
She plans to share the vision and strategies through workshops, videos, and conversations with anyone who’s interested in pursuing such a development.
She also intends to open her house to local green groups and fellow real estate practitioners to show off the green features, explain how they work together, and discuss how they improve efficiency and human and environmental health.
Learn more about the Urban Land Institute.
Featured in the June 2019 NAR GREEN Newsletter