Aiming for a new kind of housing development

The group behind a residential development proposed for Bloomingdale are looking to check more than a few boxes.

To Thrive Together is looking to build 32 townhomes that will support multi-generational living, allowing people to age in place. Moreover, the goal is to be ahead of the curve where green building is concerned, not only producing a net-zero carbon footprint, but using green building materials and incorporating renewable power, perhaps even returning electricity to the grid.

The idea is to have a model community that can be replicated elsewhere, says Jill Simpson, president of the not-for-profit To Thrive Together Sustainable Living.

“In this specific project, we are building 32 very modest-sized homes of 800 square feet on the main floor with a loft. There are different designs to be appealing to millennials through centenarians. Everything, every home, is totally wheelchair accessible, so everything in the community is barrier-free,” she explained.

The homes are to be located on just shy of nine acres on the southern edge of the village, providing green space in perpetuity. There will be community gardens, natural habitats and trails leading to the river.

Even the parking areas will be  green, using materials that allow rainwater to return to the soil rather than running off, notes architect Bob Dyck.

To foster a community feeling, all of the homes will offer front-porch views of neighbouring properties. Central to the development will be a community centre, The Gathering Place. The upper level houses The Great Hall, large enough to host private celebrations as well as public events. The lower floor houses the To Thrive Together Learning Centre with classrooms for healthy living programs as well as our Build-It- Green Showroom open to the public.

“From every single front porch, you can view the front porch of every other home in the community. We’re using architecture and very small scale urban planning to create social connection,” said Simpson.

Dyck said he sees proving wider public access to the site as a key part of spreading the word about sustainable and healthy living.

Modelled on co-housing and cooperative living arrangements, the project will have a condominium legal structure when completed.

The project has been two years in the planning phase, with organizers in preliminary talks with Woolwich Township and the region about planning requirements. A formal application has yet to be submitted.

Woolwich manager of planning Jeremy Vink said the land is currently zoned “industrial,” with specifics on required zoning amendments to come when the process becomes formalized.

The final product will be something that both draws on tradition – multi-generational communities – and is forward-looking in its application of green technologies.

“When it opens, it will already be using 2030 technologies,” said Dyck, noting the project will meet targets still almost a decade off.

“My research showed that people thrive in a multi-generational community. That’s how we survive as a species. We didn’t isolate – we learned, young people or from elders, elders had a role to play, and everybody fit together. And only in North America and Western cultures have we really recently started to separate people by age,” said Simpson of the goal of building homes suitable for everyone.

“It came together to address two critical questions. The first being, how does the growing population continue to live on the planet and still fulfill its obligation for stewardship of the earth? And the second was, how as a society do we deal with social isolation of all generations, and create a sense of belonging and community?” she added of the impetus to form To Thrive Together Sustainable Living.

Even though the project is still in the planning phase, Simpson notes the organization has already received more than a hundred inquiries about the proposed housing community. Ideally, work would get underway in 2022, with occupancy the following year, she added.

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