If you were to build a town from the ground up, where would you begin? One starting point would be to choose your favorite parts of where you live now, and then sprinkle in some attributes that you wish were easier to come by. Perhaps you enjoy the informal, stop-and-chat relationship you share with the neighbors on your street. Or you wish the waterfront was closer, to give everything the salty feel that you enjoy when you spend the day on the boat or at the marina.
While it may sound a bit idealized, that seems like the method used by the developers of Habersham, in South Carolina. The town is part of Beaufort (say BYOO-fert) on Port Royal Island, one of the Sea Islands on the Atlantic coast in the heart of the Low Country, and yet it feels separate somehow. Habersham looks well-thought-out and new, but it feels like it has always been there, instead of just since 1998. Planning and architecture have everything to do with that.
"Habersham is laid out in the true model of new urbanism- traditional neighborhood-development style with a Low Country architecture-and we maintain pretty stiff standards in here," says George Tullos, vice president of sales and marketing for Habersham. "We don't want to become homogeneous, but we want to remain authentic."
The authenticity springs from the architecture, which uses proportion and scale to evoke a sense of place. Like the lines of a pretty boat, you can't always put your finger on just what it is about the look of a street-but you know it just looks right.
"We're a walkable neighborhood," says Tullos. "Almost all of our homes address the street. Many, many of the homes have porches-front porches and rear porches- and it's really designed to be a walk, talk, and get-to-knoweach- other town." What those porches do is open part of the home to the public, and when a porch is designed properly, you'll want to use it and sit out there and enjoy time with family and friends. And make new friends, like those nice folks walking by.
Habersham's place in the local geography is a very real part of what the town is about. "We're a small coastal town," says Tullos. "There's a lot of flavor of the Low Country here. We're on the banks of the Broad River, a salt water river and we've got shrimp and oysters and all kinds of fish and wildlife, right in the great salt marshes of the Low Country. I'm not as eloquent as a Pat Conroy would be, but that describes it."
Towns have long relied on rivers as conduits to the rest of the world, but Habersham seems to use its waterfront to unify itself and strengthen its bond with the very land. "The water's huge in terms of just the connection you make to the region," says Tullos. "I think it inspires a sense of freedom and a sense of adventure in all of us."
Habersham, (877) 542-2377; www.habershamsc.com