When I last checked in with Grow Community, an exceptionally sustainable residential development on Bainbridge Island, Wash., it consisted of nothing more than three net-zero energy model homes, a sales office, and a whole lot of well-deserved hype.
Now, nearly two years later, it's apparent that this beyond LEED-striving intentional community has gone through quite the growth spurt.
In the time since the first phase of Grow Community entered the sales process (and quickly sold out), the development’s maiden micro-neighborhood, the near-completed Village, has emerged as the largest solar-powered community in Washington State. And in addition to Grow Community and its developers, Asani Development, being the subject of a decent amount of local, national, and international press, one of the Village’s Jonathan Davis-designed panelized homes was featured prominently in Sherri Koones’ latest coffee table-ready modular building tome “Prefabulous World.” Fast Company went as far to deem the Village — and Grow Community, as a whole — as “arguably the most resilient – and healthiest” urban neighborhood in the entire United States.
While continuing to garner the accolades, Grow Community has announced plans to move ahead with phase two of the development, a phase that will see the creation of two new micro-neighborhoods, the Grove and the Park, along with a community center to join the Village.
Sales for homes at the Grove kicked off earlier this month with prices starting in the $400s.
What strikes me most about phase two of Grow Community is what a departure it is from phase one while managing to stay true to the development’s overall — and very much holistic —vision of creating a progressive yet totally laid-back eco-utopia driven by the rigorous framework established by One Planet Living’s Communities program.
Grow Community is only the second North American community to be endorsed by One Planet Living, a joint initiative between WWF International and U.K.-based nonprofit BioRegional in which the 10 guiding principles are zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials, local and sustainable food, sustainable water, land use and wildlife, culture and community, equity and local economy, and, last but not least, health and happiness.
The key difference, a difference not entirely embraced by some members of the Bainbridge Island community, between the Village and the Grove and the Park revolves around density. Whereas the Village consists primarily of 22 “traditional” single-family detached homes situated on private lots and clustered around a meandering network of trails, both the Grove and the Park emphasize open space. In fact, 60 percent of the new neighborhoods will be comprised of public green space and community gardens. Within the 5.26-acre Grove, more than 3 acres will be dedicated to open space.
To achieve this, Asani veered away from single-family homes and instead focused on townhomes and single-level multifamily buildings (condos, essentially) in addition to a small handful of single-family attached homes. In total, the Grove will add 49 new homes to the development located in five structures —the Juniper, the Tsuga, the Salal, the Eland Townhomes, and the Woodland Homes — arrayed around a tranquil native woodland, complete with orchard, that serves as an oversized courtyard of sorts.
Open for sales later this year, the Park, which flanks a broad open community green, will add 39 new residences. Both new neighborhoods are designed by Cutler Anderson Architects and, like with the Village, solar will be an option for all homeowners, including those living in multifamily buildings.
Another method Asani used to increase density and open up green space was to move all resident parking underground save for a few street-level spots for visitors. The subterranean parking garages will be accessible via elevators located in the new buildings. As relayed by Grow Community development manager Jeff Sharp, moving parking underground and rendering cars “out of sight, out of mind,” residents will be further encouraged to hoof — or bike — it in this already pedestrian-oriented development centered around “five minute living.” That is, a huge number of amenities — and the ferry terminal to Seattle — are located just a quick, walk, bike ride, or shared Nissan Leaf drive away in Winslow, or, as it's better known, "downtown" Bainbridge Island.
From Winsow, it's a 35-minute ferry ride to downtown Seattle on the Tacoma or the Wenatchee — one of the most beautiful commutes in the country.
The concept of aging in place also played heavily into the design of the Grove and the Park and the overall emphasis on single-level, multifamily residences. Having listened to feedback from current and prospective residents, Asani intends for phase two of Grow Community to appeal not just to families and young professionals commuting to Seattle but to a broader demographic including elderly residents for whom accessibility is key.
Over 60 percent of the units will be accessible via paths and trails on the site and through the use of elevators from the garage to the entries of the residences. But to age in place, not only do residents need accessible living space, they will also want home health, meal and other services that will allow them to continue to live in the familiar surroundings of their own homes, in their own community. We’ve laid the groundwork by planning for accessible living, and now we are pursuing solutions for these services and how they can be provided to residents.
As mentioned, Grow Community’s community center will also be built alongside the phase two neighborhoods. While the exterior of the building has been largely designed, the interior use of the building will be decided on with input community residents through focus group sessions. Flexible open spaces ideal for community meetings and exercise are likely to play a part in the center’s design. And as Sharp points out, given that the building will be flanked on two sides by community gardens, food and communal dining will play an integral role in how the interior of the center is ultimately laid out.
There was a lot to admire about Grow Community back in its infancy when the seeds of a thoughtful and dynamic community were just beginning to sprout. In its young adult stage — receptive, willing to take risks, continuing to form its own unique identity, and just a touch crunchy — Grow Community is even more loveable. I’m looking forward to seeing this singular residential development reach full maturity within the next few years.
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