New Orchard Ridge subdivision offers community garden


The Community Gardens are at the center of Orchard Ridge’s blueprints for a “community-oriented” neighborhood. (Waylon Cunningham Photo)


Like the lots that surround it, the plot for the community garden at Orchard Ridge lies mostly empty for now. However, the developers expect this to change, and quickly.

Pre-sales for upcoming homes in the new master planned community just opened last week, and incoming families looking here will find a fresh take on the traditional subdivision.

A community garden, two miles of trails, a resort-style pool, gyms and event spaces are just part of the extended approach to suburban living. The development, located east of Liberty Hill on State Highway 29, is the latest project from Freehold Communities, a Boston-based, master-planned community developer with a national footprint.

“We try to integrate a vital lifestyle in all our communities,” says Matt Matthews, president of the company’s Texas division. “But this is the only project we have in Texas right now that pushes the community garden so much.”

The community garden, featuring fruit and nut tree orchards on terraced landscaping, provides residents a space for community events “like harvest parties,” Matthews said, in addition to public and private plots for gardening.

Though Freehold Communities performs all the usual duties of a developer — land acquisitions, entitlements, and sales to subcontractors — they also work, like a gardener, in cultivating living spaces.

For instance, Matthews says, their architectural guidelines “specify a lot about front porches. We want to get people to the front of their house, out in open spaces. We want to create the possibilities for interactions with their neighbors.

“Basically, we want to bring people into the community,” he adds.

The blueprints for the development also specify a layout “mindful of the topography out there,” Matthews reports. “We wanted to plot the street patterns to follow the natural land, and minimize the amount of masquerading we had to do. You sometimes see projects where they tried to flatten everything out, but we wanted to respect the land form, and integrate the development into it.”

Open spaces organize the clusters of homes, and several river tributaries run between them. A large pond at the development’s southern end provides a natural way to manage runoff and improve the water’s quality.

“There’s an emphasis here on a healthy lifestyle,” Matthews said. “We know Austin and the surrounding area are very oriented on fitness and the outdoors, and we’ve planned the development in acknowledgment of that. The fitness facilities, for instance, aren’t just elliptical gyms in the corner.

“The trails, front porches, the substantial fitness centers and gardens are all intended to really bring people out into the community and interact with these open spaces,” he added.

Once contractors sell all the homes in the development, Freehold Communities will withdraw to allow an independent homeowners association to take over a management role, such as overseeing the community garden and its adjacent private plots.

“We’ve hired farmers, who specialize in this work, to come in and make some reports. But you can expect the yield to be about the same as your weekly grocery visit,” Matthews said. “This is certainly more than a supplement to your salad.”

Freehold Communities acquired the 247-acre property in the summer of 2014, and completed development in the third quarter of 2016.

Two home-building contractors will develop the lots, which will fall within Leander’s school district.

Dream Finders Homes, which operates across the nation, will construct houses ranging from 1,700-3,331 square feet, and will sell for prices ranging from $200,000-$300,000.

Austin-based Buffington Homes will offer homes between 1,772-2,926 square feet for $280,000-$340,000.

Though no homes have been built yet, there are model homes available for tours.

Out of their Texas office based in Austin, Freehold Communities is also developing projects in Orchard Springs and Schertz, near San Antonio.