Existing and Forming LIFE Neighborhoods


Bartimaeus Community - Bremerton,WA

Bartimaeus Cohousing Community is located in Bremerton,Washington, a scenic ferry ride west of Seattle on the  verdant Olympic Peninsula.   This multigenerational community is largely (but not exclusively) faith-based, and combines an active sense of mission with the easy familiarity of cohousing neighbors who just enjoy being with each other. 

Bartimaeus Community is a consensus-governed, voluntary association of individuals from many different denominations and traditions, many of whom reside at the Meadow Wood Cohousing Condominium, whose commitment to service is based on a foundation of Christian faith and practice.  Organized separately from the Meadow Wood Cohousing Condominium Association, all the resident neighbors are valued friends and community partners.  Bartimaeus community affirms the dignity and worth of all persons as made in God’s image, and welcomes participation in all activities.  As such, Bartimaeus community affirms Meadow Wood Condominium’s commitment not to engage in preferential treatment or discrimination of any kind against those who are not part of Bartimaeus community.

The vision of developer Bartimaeus Cohousing Community, LLC was to “create a safe and welcoming place where people can substantially grow into the whole, healthy, unique persons God intended.”  The current goal is to create a place where adults and families in difficult circumstances can come to be restored through sustained involvement in a strong, safe community.   This kind of informal “refamilying” can help many regain their strength and become whole, outreach-capable individuals.   Bartimaeus Community does this by committing to “living in community.” By choosing to live in closer proximity with others than is normally the case in suburban housing, the residents open themselves up to unique growth opportunities.

This largely, but not exclusively, evangelical group designed and developed a co-housing neighborhood that reflects the values of creation care, genuine community, and care for others.   For example, they intentionally designed their community to cluster the homes together to preserve a large area of wetlands on their property.   They also designed a single separate area to park their vehicles, and created walkways and gathering areas between homes to facilitate relationships with one another.  They are a bit like a large extended family, even though they come from a broad range of religious traditions, and share meals and dinner conversations together at least once a week in the “common house” building. 

In order to create a community that intentionally reaches out to those in need, they formed a separate non-profit corporation which purchased one of the units.  This is made available through “Shepherd’s Sanctuary” to families who need short-term transition housing in a healthy, supportive community.  Voluntary rental assistance contributions from several resident families help keep the rental payments very low for the family in this unit.  With near-neighbor childcare assistance, and other support efforts, even single parents who’ve lived in this unit have been able to complete job-retraining or education, to move on with their future plans.

Once a month, they hold community workdays, and do the landscaping and maintenance tasks together from 9 am to 1 pm, before enjoying a free lunch together.  They’ve hosted ecumenical “Taize “ worship services, Christmas parties, overseas relief meal packaging, and other occasional events like a messianic Seder dinner.   A nightly voluntary prayer time together is only a short walk to the “common house.” A beginning Greek class has met there; a “spiritual discussion group” has been yet another venue for getting to know each other, and inviting friends to.  Informal outdoor fire circles, camping in the forested meadow, and potlucks between near neighbors, and other events have typified the distinctive community ethos built among us.

The wider community of Meadow Wood Condominium has served as a great host for all these efforts, and is truly an inclusive community in which to live and learn from each others’ differences.

See www.bartcommunity.org for more information on Bartimaeus Community.  For more information on Meadow Wood Condominium, see www.mwcondo.com.


Temescal Commons Community - Oakland, CA
 Planning started:  1997;  Community opened:  2000
 
Nine households live at Temescal Commons, which was born out of the local Rockridge United Methodist Church but now is a more diverse Christian community. They represent a broad range of family and personality types but all share a vision of creating a different future for their children and neighborhood. Kids love the many options – people to play with, safe places to visit, and the parents appreciate other responsible adults for role modeling.  The community's lifestyle have also exceeded the expectations of single adults and older couples without kids.  Group outings, shared holiday meals, gatherings at the common house for games or dessert, and  standing in while a parent went for some errands are common features of community.  For such a small community however, changes and losses have taken a high toll.  Many of the initial dreams had to be let go of for years before bearing fruit.  The mother church discontinued in 2006, and the members have spread out to a number of other local churches for worship and spiritual support.

Located in the northern section of the city of Oakland, near one of the more challenged edges of the Temescal neighborhood, the community is consciously attempting to impact its surroundings. Neighbors share in our community life with outdoor movie nights, Cub Scout meetings, first aid training in the common house, and celebrations like Fourth-of-July barbecues. When the church organized an after-school tutoring program at the public elementary school five blocks away - a school near the bottom of the city’s rankings-many of community residents eagerly participated and two individuals even became teachers there. The children invite neighborhood kids to play and shoot hoops. These friends come from various walks of life, sometimes with brothers or sisters in jail, the community believes that its prayers, guidance, and playful attention will impact their lives. Residents love it when churches, schools, neighborhood overlap and share a bit of glorious light of God’s kingdom.
 
Temescal Common's focus started with the understanding that we all live in God’s creation and that we are to love God, each other, our neighbors, and to care for the creation. The community's three goals are to create community, to be good neighbors, and to care for God’s creation.  As a part of creating community, residents wanted their children to be raised within an “extended family.” It was also important to simplify  lifestyles and minimize expenses by sharing meals, cars, and major appliances. Sharing things in common helps to free up time and money to invest in families, the schools and other neighborhood issues requiring urgent attention. Making homes affordable to average-income families was essential so they wouldn’t need to work multiple jobs or long hours to pay the mortgage. Sharing times of yardwork, study, prayer and recreation was also an appealing goal. Above all else, Temescal community wanted a place where residents could care for each other as Jesus cared for us.  This has involved unexpected effort and disappointments, but is a rewarding, transforming process for those who undertake it.
 
The vision also emphasized hospitality, Christian neighborliness, justice and service. This includes inviting to dinners neighbors who are hungering for more relationships, and providing affordable housing options. Improving neighborhood schools was also close to the resident's hearts and the children’s lives. Residents sought the collective energy that cohousing would provide to address more of these crying needs in Oakland.  Caring for God’s creation is also very important to this Temescal community. There are several avid gardeners and flower lovers, and the residents planned from the beginning to have the design, construction, and operation the buildings and grounds as sustainable as possible. They also wanted to be able to hear God speaking through the lilies, fruit trees, birds and stars.  While outdoor private space is pretty rare, there are enough unique niches in the various places so that noone feels too crowded or restricted in their options.

 

Buildings that make up the community include several remodeled older homes, combined with new construction. The housing consists of three four-bedroom units, a three-bedroom unit, three two-bedroom flats, and two studio units. The small, brightly-painted buildings are clustered around two interconnected yards – the “commons”. The new common house -- consisting of a dining area, kitchen, laundry, powder room, and television alcove -- is near the center of the complex, and adjoins an old barn. Part of the dusty downstairs portion of the barn was cleaned up and turned into an exercise room with weights and an elliptical trainer. Another part provides storage for bicycles, while the upstairs hayloft is now a well-used recreation room for the teenagers with ping-pong table, television, and a couch. Next to the barn, in the tool shed and workshop area, everyone keeps the equipment and tools they are willing to share. Because of these common features, the new homes were designed with no laundry areas and smaller kitchens and dining rooms.  This conserves resources and encourages community interaction.  Construction of the complex was a challenging ordeal with major delays and work that had to be re-done or deferred, not unusual for development but very disruptive and stressful for a group of self-developers.


Six of the units plus most of the common area are part of a condominium association. Each condo owner owns and maintains everything within his or her exterior walls, while things beyond the walls are the joint responsibility of all the owners. Everyone pays monthly dues to cover the maintenance and utility costs for the common area plus a long-term reserve fund for replacement of roofs, equipment, and such.  Things like landscape maintenance and bookkeeping have been done by residents to keep costs down, but have been a challenge with such a small number of owners.  Management of all the systems required to keep this functioning has been stressful, particularly due to cutting edge unreliable techology like on-demand, integrated radiant heating and hot water systems.  Almost half of the residents have been renters, who contribute energy and creativity, but turn over more and sometimes don't engage or take on as much responsibility as needed.  This has been a great learning and growing process.

 

See Presentation for more information on Temescal Commons.

 

Victory Outreach Indio (Forming Commmunity) - Indio, CA
 
HM Network is currently assisting Victory Outreach Church Indio in establishing a LIFE  Neighborhood in Indio, CA.  The church, whose primary ministry is outreach and evangelism to the local neighborhood, is planning a residential community of about 32 units, a large common house and commercial office and retail space to house local economic development efforts.  The church has formed a separate non-profit organization to develop and own the project.  
 
The 32 residential units will be rental units affordable to low income families and funded through public and private subsidies.  Each home will have a full kitchen, 2-3 bedrooms and 2 baths.  The community design will incorporate small scale, walkable design and sustianble construction features. The LIFE Neighborhood will be managed by onsite professional property management staff and 24 hour security and concierge service.  

Community life will focus in the LIFE Neighborhood clubhouse, which will include common dining and gathering space, commercial kitchen, recreation rooms, libraries, guest housing units and on-site services desk.  Weekly community dinners will be planned and prepared by the residents and monthly neighborhood wide events will be used to service the wider community.  Shared resources such as electric carsharing, tool and equipment library, and bulk-purchasing will be an opportunity for residents to spend less of their resources and save and give more.  Photovoltaic panels will provide electricty for the common areas and other amenities.

A number of neighborhood wide commercial amenities are planned, such as new retail space, daycare, community center facilities, and office space for new business incubators and the business they support.  The residents will work with state and local agencies to promote new job growth in the area and provide job training and support for residents. These new businesses will be contribute to the economic development efforts of the neighborhood and its residents.  


Fresh Community at Pinedale (Forming Commmunity) - Montgomery, AL
 
 HM Network is currently assisting Fresh Start CDC in establishing a LIFE Neighborhood in Montgomery, AL. Fresh Start is the community development corporation of Fresh Anointing Church which is a multi-racial, multigenerational, International ministry committed to fulfilling the mandate of Christ to make disciples of every people group possible. Fresh Start was attracted to the LIFE Neighborhood model to more fully accomplish its vision for a new 60 acre planned empowerment community. Two neighborhoods in this 220-unit community will be LIFE Neighborhoods. This community is designed to anchor a larger area with hundreds of units of subsidized housing that lacks the educational, entrepreneurial and social supports needed for a vibrant community. The LIFE Neighborhood model helps this congregation stabilize an under-resourced community and establish a permanent presence as neighbor.  The first LIFE Neighborhood  is a 30 unit elder-rich ownership project in which the Sponsor will design a Neighborhood clubhouse serving the community. The second LIFE Neighborhood is a 30 unit townhouse style (single-level flats) adjacent to the town square and an intergenerational community center. 
 
The residential units will be rental and homeownership units targeted largely to elders and older home owners in the area needing more appropriate housing for their older years. The new homes will sell/rent at market rates with varied price points. Subsidized units will not be part of this mix due to the large numbers of existing units in the area. In this case creating a healthy mix of housing options requires more market rate housing and empowering ministries to stabilize existing subsidized communities. 
 
The family units will be a mix of attached and detached styles having a full kitchen, 2-4 bedrooms and 2 baths. The senior units will have a full kitchen, 1-2 bedrooms and 1 baths. As also reflected in the overall master planned community, the community design will incorporate small scale, walkable design and sustainable construction features. The LIFE Neighborhood will include healthcare and case management options for the senior community in conjunction with a local community health center.  Community life will focus in the LIFE Neighborhood clubhouse of each community, which will include common dining and gathering space, commercial kitchen, recreation rooms, libraries, guest housing units and on-site services desk.