Building Community With Beautiful Homes

Synergy Homes / Seven Lakes
Written by Allison Dempsey

Taking pride in a reputation for integrity, reliable partnerships, and sound business decisions, St. John’s, Newfoundland-based Penney Group shares strong fundamental principles with its partners, coupled with steadfast dedication to employees, customers, and communities. Founded 40 years ago by Ches Penney, the company is involved in a wide range of real estate developments that offer quality design, environmental awareness, and a commitment to building community.

“Penney Group as a whole has always had a very excellent reputation in Atlantic Canada,” says Nicole Perchard, Director of Real Estate and Communications.

Ches Penney’s lasting legacy as a fair and trusted man and a “really great partner in business,” has been the basis of the company’s values and the core of how it does business, she adds.

“As a whole, Penney Group has always been very generous, and we’ve always believed in building communities and giving back,” she says. “That belief is still very strongly ingrained in everything we do. We support various causes and do whatever we can do to give back to the communities we’re building in and the communities as a whole.”

One of those communities, Seven Lakes Developments, is a perfect example. This master-planned “Conservation Designed” community—now under construction on land surrounding one of seven lakes inside the established community of Porters Lake—is situated on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, 25 minutes from downtown Halifax. Made up of several “Villages” connected by paths that encourage locals to get outside and appreciate nature and their surroundings via walks, hikes, and bike rides, the development offers a wide selection of home designs and options for homebuyers.

“With regards to services offered in Seven Lakes, it’s basically building communities for people,” says Perchard.

This commitment is reflected in the planning. Comprising 634 acres, this conservation community dedicates 60 percent of the land retained to green space. “We’re very, very conscious of existing watercourses and ensuring we’re working with the land,” says Perchard. “We try not to clear cut any of our lots, and we leave as many mature trees as possible.”

Designed to be a place to live “from cradle to grave,” phase one of this all-inclusive master-planned community is almost complete, with fewer than ten of its 100 lots left. Now in the midst of waiting for approvals for phase two, the goal is to be ready to have a home built there by next spring.

“Phase one was great, it was a unique project,” Perchard says. “It took us a little bit longer to get to where we are now but it’s truly unique. And we’re hoping to bring that same uniqueness into phase two with a lot of green and a lot of space.”

Phase two is planned to have no homes on the main street, and will all back onto green space in cul-de-sacs. “That will give a real feeling of privacy that you don’t get in some of the other developments in Halifax Regional Municipality,” she adds.

Contributing to that development of a picturesque community where convenience coexists with nature is also a top priority for Penney Group member Synergy Homes, a company building houses that combine premium components with practical design. Currently building at Seven Lakes and Osprey Landing Nova Scotia, this partnership remains dedicated to preserving natural beauty while providing quality design and structures.

The company also offers a diverse range of homes, from under 1200 square feet to over 3,000 square feet, depending on the client’s needs. “From the beginning to the very end, we work on the plan, we help [clients] we get a sense of what they want for the finishes,” Perchard says. “We give them realistic allowances to align with the finishes they want. It really does vary, depending on the customer.”

While the company’s homebuilding division takes care of the building the homes, the heavy civil division is responsible for digging foundations and building roads, among other elements. “Synergy has actually grown quite a bit, mostly in our heavy civil division, which has been pretty exciting,” Perchard says. “That division is actually growing so greatly that we may be able to potentially offer services to other developers and other builders.”

Osprey Landing is a new development located in Lantz, Nova Scotia, and boasts 135 lots in the first phase with plans to break ground on the first semi-detached homes in June. With a wide variety of options including townhouses, link homes, large single-family, and semi-detached, there will be something for everyone. That includes the company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, which factors into each area of planning and development.

“With regards to building energy-efficient and sustainable homes, we definitely go a little bit above and beyond what the code is,” says Perchard. “We definitely have a standard we try to keep.”

The company’s first passive solar home is also currently under construction, with much of the work being done by Synergy itself. “It’s been exciting because we’ve really seen that this is something we could offer people, and not a lot of builders in Nova Scotia can offer that,” Perchard says. “That in itself is very exciting. And Seven Lakes is a conservation community in itself, geared toward sustainability and more a place to live, not just a place to exist.”

When it comes to home construction, the company also goes above and beyond, using extra insulation as a standard, creating beautiful custom closets, and working with suppliers to give clients excellent experiences they may not get elsewhere, she adds.

“We try our best to be responsive and work with our clients as much as possible. If they bring us [an idea] halfway through the build, we’re never going to be the builder that says, ‘No, you can’t do that because it wasn’t originally in your contract,’” Perchard says. “We will find a way to work with the person to incorporate it as best we can.”

Along with its several homebuilding developments within Nova Scotia, Penney Group also has another arm of business—Our Homestead Rentals—located in Porters Lake and Enfield. With a housing crisis hovering over the country, particularly in the rental division, Penney Group is conscious of making a difference there as well to supplement market.

“The pandemic really caused a bit of a stir in the real estate market in Nova Scotia, because a lot of people were moving from Ontario back home east,” says Perchard. “It caused a real supply and demand issue and we saw housing prices soar hundreds of thousands of dollars over what they would have been a couple years before. We’re still seeing that now. The market has definitely changed from what it was maybe five years ago to now.”

The building industry as a whole has experienced supply and demand issues over the past few years, she adds, along with “huge increases” in pricing that the company either would have to absorb or pass on to its clients. “We still stayed strong,” she says. “We built more homes since the pandemic started than we ever had before.” Learning ways to make the process more efficient and ensure projects moved along as fast as possible was both a challenge and an accomplishment.

Other achievements include Synergy Homes’ nomination for a Canadian Homebuilding Association Award this past February, one of only two Atlantic Canadian companies selected. As for future goals, growth is definitely in the plans, with ongoing expansion within Nova Scotia and the search for more development opportunities. As for the team’s current projects, major milestones include completing phase one of Seven Lakes, starting phase two, and looking at other opportunities for remaining lands, including Osprey Landing.

“We also want to grow our rental group because we know there’s a need in Nova Scotia,” Perchard says. “We’re always looking at opportunities to build more homes for people, as everyone deserves a home to feel safe, happy and comfortable in.”

Penney Group is determined to leave their development areas better than they found them, creating spaces that are aesthetically and environmentally aware while providing more than a place for customers to merely “exist.”

“We have taken great care to understand our customers’ needs and how they think of their homes and their neighbourhoods. It costs nothing to save a tree,” Perchard says. “That tree has existed for much longer than we have. It’s not difficult to carefully plan where you’re going to place a home, and really give it care and thought.”

Indeed, that seems to be the overarching theme for this team, who strive to be community builders while creating spaces of beauty.

“We want to build communities, not just places,” says Perchard. “We want to build beautiful areas where people are happy to live. We also want to make sure that we’re not only giving back to the community financially or giving our time, but also creating enduring places that people will be proud of.”

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