Posted by: Michelle on March 16th, 2010
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Now that Phase 1 of the ariaDenver project (the sisters housing) is almost complete and the sisters have moved in, the Co-housing portion of the project is starting. Tomorrow there will be a presentation by Jim Leach on the benefits of co-housing and a description of living in a community with a vision of a healthier, more secure nad fulfilling lifestyle. Jim is a resident of one of his co-housing projects Silver Sage Village and is president of Wonderland Hill Devleopement (a company specializing in the development of co-housing projects).
In the ariaDenver project there will be two portions of co-housing. One will be reusing the existing convent building (which has great bones) for senior co-housing. There is also a portion of the overall project that will be new construction for an intergenerational co-housing project.
The co-housing project offers both privacy as well as communal spaces. There will be individual homes for families, but in addition, shared spaces as well - shared kitchens for “communal dinners” once a week, shared gardens for on-site food production, shared spaces for childcare, hanging out, inspiring a supportive network and encouraging a “lifetime learning environment”.
While co-Housing has been around for a while, it has recently become more popular. As Jim told me, “Cohousing is definitely picking up steam with a lot of both future residents as well as builders and developers. I think it is because people are rethinking their values both in response to the economy and to environmental concerns. I think people are primarily looking for community and a way to live more sustainably.”
Jim describes the approach to the ariaDenver project, “We will utilize the original convent building for a senioir community of 20 to 30 living units and then develop an intergenerational community out of the newer east wing of the convent by adding to it and creating a pedestrian court between it and some new row homes for families. The architecture coudl be a really interesting interplay of the historic feel of the convent with a contemporary new element, much like some of the attractive European developments around historic buildings.”
Jim also talked about what got him interested in co-housing: “I was always interested in trying to see how far we could push solar, energy efficiency and green building in merchant built housing. Co-housing brought proactive buyers who wanted to live more sustainably. By getting together in a community, they were able to find the courage and commitment to do so. Our motto is Community is the secret ingredient in sustainability.”
I am a huge fan of co-housing and Jim Leach and am really looking forward to working with him. Kevin and I have been talking about the type of place we might want to live in the future, and Jim has described it perfectly.
To attend the event tomorrow at 6:30pm , or the ariaDenver co-housing kick-off workshop on November 21st, rsvp with firstname.lastname@example.org or call Georgette Vigil at 303-449-3232.
The Casa Chiara project is being finalized, and the Sisters are moving in. Moving day in the current Denver snow has turned out to be quite an adventure. However, these are very strong women, and piles of snow are not going to stop them from moving into their homes.
This photo below was taken just a few days ago, as landscaping was being planted. Amazing how quickly the weather can change, and also how quickly the buildings and the landscape transform appearance. I (and I would imagine the Sisters as well) look forward to the weather changing again, and seeing how the 8 homes look with Denver’s crisp blue skies and the plantings taking off.
Last week was an exciting one. I was in Denver to see the final 8 modules get set for the first green/prefab multifamily project that I have worked on, and actually the first one that I am aware of that has been built. The project consisted of 16 modules, and the final 8 were set all on Thursday (and completed by 2pm that day). People came to join during lunch to watch the final modules flying through the air and set into place. And as one of the nuns, Sister Sue Artone-Fricke noted as she saw her bedroom module, “My new inner sanctum is finally here.”
Denver Mayor Hickenlooper came by to watch as well. From John Hickenlooper’s blog, the Mayor said, “Denver wants to be the kind of place that brings a lot of innovative ideas. What could be more innovative than to build a totally green, prefab, multiple-unit community on the site of a convent? This is going to be a great development. I think it brings to Denver just the kind of development that we want to be known for.”
I spent some time with Real Estate writer John Rebchook as he watched the construction. You can read some of our conversations on his blog.
Then that evening, we had a fabulous group of people join for a talk on green modular building + living where we announced the officially start of the next phase of the ariaDenver project.
In this site plan you can see the sister’s housing that was just set (Casa Chiara) as the pink buildings in the upper right corner. The next phase will be the townhouse homes along 52nd Avenue (in yellow on the lower right side). There are various unit types and sizes as a part of the next phase, packed with strategies, materials and systems for healthy living and energy and water efficiency.
I am planning to work directly with the first 5 buyers to help select finishes and finalize design choices with them.
The townhouse units will have options for either having carports, garages, or even garages with carriage house units on top (which can help bring in income if it is rented out, or can be perfect for an in-law suite, nanny suite, or a working studio).
The inside of the carriage house will be an open floorplan, and use fabric walls as a way to allow flexibility for privacy and changing the space at different times of the day or when there is company.
For more info, check out the AriaDenver website or email email@example.com.
It has been an exciting morning so far. First, I woke up to the Denver Post and read the article titled “Denver nuns go green and modular” and included a fabulous quote from Sister Sue Artone-Fricke “Our heritage as Franciscan sisters is that we take responsibility for the Earth and see all creation as our sisters and brothers and treat all with gentle courtesy.” Lovely.
Then Susan Powers, the developer with Urban Ventures LLC went to the site just in time to see a few modules flying through the air. It never ceases to be thrilling seeing the modules get set. I have become a bit of a junky, in fact. Especially when they make it look so easy, when I know first hand that it is anything but easy. And this one was really exciting, as it is the first multifamily project I have worked on. So amazing.
Then the Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper came by (he is a big supporter of green building and communities).
And it isn’t even noon yet. In a few minutes there will be public viewing of the remaining modules being set (the last 8 of the 16 modules will be set today). At 6:45pm tonight I will give a talk about the project and the next phase of AriaDenver (and announcing some new designs as well). If you are in Denver, come by. To rsvp, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Just in case you are wondering, the buildings are not going to be all white as they are now. They will have red metal roofs (with full PV solar on top) that will “nod” to the red roof of the existing convent. The siding will be painted earth colors (the hues taken from their gardens). The painting will be happening in the next few weeks after they complete the button up work between where the modules connect (you may notice that they leave off some siding at the bottom to allow for connectors to the foundation, as well as where modules are side by side and need to connect.
Here comes Project Manager Kate Hiberg, so I am off to walk inside the latest modules being set. (things move fast around here on set day!)
As I have been working on the Casa Chiara project, housing for the Sisters of St. Francis, I have been amazed at how much love and beauty they have in their lives and share with others. I have realized there is a lot to learn from the way they live that can be applied to communities as a whole such as communal dining (either once a day, or once a week), on-site food production, shared amenities (so in addition to each sister having her own small kitchen, they also have a shared large kitchen for group dinners), car share, some private contemplation gardens, but also shared courtyard gardens, and energy analysis as a group.
Co-housing incorporates a lot of these aspects. The ariaDenver project (on land that used to be the convent for the Sisters of St. Francis), includes some co-housing, but we are also looking at ways to inspire some of the best attributes of living in a community that is already the foundation of the site.
I will be in Denver at the Casa Chiara site to see the setting of the last modules (so exciting!) and I also will be giving a talk on Thursday evening, sharing photos of the factory production as well as talking about green design and the ariaDenver project. We will be sharing some new designs for the project also! The talk will be from 7pm – 8:30pm Thursday in Denver at the convent. There will also be a showing of the modular construction setting from noon to 2pm on Thursday at the site. If you want to join either the talk or the viewing, please email email@example.com.
I hope to see you there.
Notes and photos from Casa Chiara Project Manager Kate Hilberg tonight show the first 6 modules got set, despite the rain, and even despite the first module’s tractor trailer getting stuck in the mud and having to be pulled out by the loader.
Yet the spirits at the site remained high, mostly coming from the wonderful energy from the “peanut gallery” (a.k.a. The Sisters). While proudly wearing hard hats , the Sister’s kept their eyes on the construction throughout the day, while petting the site dog, and bought everyone lunch adding lots of good will, cheer, and excitement as their new homes began to materialize from the clouds and rain. I am looking forward to the rainbow.
The first set of modules for the Casa Chiara project were shipped last night. Seeing the modules come down the road is always a thrilling event. For me, there is nothing like it. So, I greatly appreciated this note from Sister Patty, one of the Sisters of St. Francis who will be living here:
“We just watched all four pieces of Unit A roll onto the property on semi trailers—two pieces at a time. How exciting and how beautiful!!! They were accompanied by several pickup trucks with blinking yellow lights, and I swear the traffic helicopters were accompanying them, as well!
They brought the two outside boxes of each side first—the bedrooms—and secondly the two middle units, as the latter will be placed on the site first. All of them are beautiful homes, with lovely design lines on the outside, giving them a very striking look.
Two of the gentlemen who drove the semi-trailers wanted to know if the architect was on site. They were so impressed with the homes—how green they were, how no materials were from more than 500 miles away, how easy they were to transport, how well the plastic was wrapped around the one side (sometimes they have to stop and reattach plastic sheeting, etc.). “Any home that can be transported on a semi truck has to be better built than a stick house!” he added!
This is just a wonderful experience, Michelle, and we, the sisters, are so very grateful for how these homes really embody everything we long to be as Franciscans: ecological minded, economical, respectful of the persons who build them and of those who will live in them as community, and so beautiful and inviting! What is really fun is to see how many people are touched by this project and take ownership of it, from the workers in the factory, to the onsite workers, to the transport folks, and hopefully to our neighbors!”
Ok, maybe recieving a note like that is even better than seeing the modules come down the road.
The first set of modules on the Casa Chiara project (phase 1 of ariaDenver) are being delivered tonight. While some of the typical tasks are being done (such as verifying plumb heights, clearing access for trucks and cranes, preparing staging areas), some atypical site preparations occurred this afternoon.
Since these 8 townhouse homes will house the Sisters of St. Francis Marycrest Convent, this is quite a special site. This afternoon there was the “Blessing of the Sacred Ground” where the Sisters blessed the land and the foundations, and thanked the developers (Sue, Kate and Dick with Urban Ventures LLC), the site contractors, the factory team, and Sister Sue (who helped with project oversight). The Sisters then had the “Blessing of the Workers” and celebrated with prayer and song. (honestly, these are the coolest nuns I have ever met).
Lovely. And would be great if that could be done at all sites and foundations just before the modules arrive!
I will post photos tomorrow of the first modules being set.