Southern Living Names Hampstead an Inspired Community
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Josh Moates
The co-directors of design and development wanted to create something very special with their Hampstead project in East Montgomery.
They enlisted Miami-based town planners Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. (DPZ) to develop their residential project. They even discussed Hampstead with DPZ at a downtown Montgomery hotel during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
That’s right, the planning for Hampstead began 10 years ago and it opened in 2008. “They (Southern Living magazine) told us that they have been watching Hampstead since it opened,” said Anna Lowder, who is a co-director of design and development with husband Harvi Sahota.
Now, the 416-acre project, which is tentatively scheduled to have 3,000 homes of various sizes and types, is the first residential development in Alabama to be recognized as a Southern Living Inspired Community. And what makes that even more astounding is that Southern Living is just up Interstate 65 in Birmingham. “There are great communities and a lot going on in the state,” Lowder said. “We were the first (in Alabama) they wanted to approach and we were really pleased with that.”
Sahota said the honor is “the combination of years of hard work and doing things in a certain way with a vision. It is a stamp of approval from Southern Living to come aboard as a partner with us. It’s something we’re extremely proud of not just only for the development of Hampstead, but also for the City of Montgomery.
“I think it’s a big deal on wider scale of putting Montgomery on the map for having a great community like Hampstead located within the City of Montgomery.”
Residential developments do not apply to Southern Living, but are selected. The magazine, which is the eighth-largest in the country with almost 20 million readers, considers developments with “lasting performance; integrity with the architectural design; and their building and a sense of community,” Lowder said. The magazine’s focus is “what areas are we seeing that are enhancing the sense of what it means to be in the South today.”
Hampstead is so much more than a live-work-play development, although there are 18 businesses there, including three restaurants. There is the Montessori School at Hampstead; a public library branch; YMCA; and an urban farm whose crops are used at restaurants on the site.
“The overall vision is a place that is active and combines living and working and learning and playing,” Lowder said. There is a lot of playing with Hampstead Lake, pool, tennis courts, dog area, and parks as well as a wide variety of events from sporting events to watching films or sporting events outdoors.
“A place that is walkable; healthy in its design,” Sahota said about Hampstead. “A genuine sense of community.”
Lowder: “The overall vision being a place that is multigenerational, and it’s fun and it’s just active and inclusive of all different ages as well.”
Being a Southern Living Inspired Community was an arduous process that took months, according to Lowder. There were 12 to 15 conversations and site visits. Magazine officials wanted to ensure that Hampstead was financially stable and would continue growing – adding schools, churches and parks.
Now being in such select company, means a close partnership with Southern Living. It means being mentioned in the magazine’s social media as well as the publication. If Southern Living is promoting healthy lifestyles, an outdoor yoga class at Hampstead might be mentioned. “We supply the information and the images and they’ll help us get to a wider audience,” Lowder said.
There is the potential for Southern Living to bring its test-kitchen chef to Hampstead for a photo shoot of farm-to-table dishes. There may be an opportunity to team up with Southern Living for a wine tasting event, Sahota said.