Re: Seeking to attract households with children-off topic
From: Virginia Moreland (vmorelandmindspring.com)
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 09:26:37 -0600
Gee guys,
   I seem to have elicited some strong reactions with a response that was
written in haste and enthusiasm. (Yes, we succeeded in attracting several
families with small children and we are thrilled about it!) Let me try to
clarify some of my remarks.


>>Subject: Re: Seeking to attract households with children
> Now we
>> have about 14 kids of various ages, and few if any are going to be in the
>> public schools.
>>     Certainly in the long run I hope our people will get involved in the
>> public schools and help inprove them, but few parents are going to bet
>> their kids future on that. We will be doing educational outreach activities
>> with the local public schools related to our organic garden and
>> water-management systems, etc.
>I hate to be a wet blanket, but I doubt very much this will happen. Living
>in cohousing is just as time consuming (or more) than building it. The only
>way to be truly involved with a public school is to teach at it or have your
>kids in it. If not you, then who? When?

The first sentence above was kind of vague, I admit. What I actually meant
was that given a little time and familiarity with the neighborhood, which
is also on the upswing outside our little community, perhaps some of our
parents actually will give the public schools a try, and by that
involvement help to improve them. We also have many residents nearing
retirement age who are teachers, social workers, librarians, etc.  It's
inconceivable that some of  them might do some volunteer work in the
schools. (I do not have children myself, but I fall into this last category.)

>If you are creating cohousing just to have another gated community, then you
>are not building community, you are building an enclave. Your words about
>getting involved just don't ring true.

How much to you know about our community, Liz? Yes, we will initially have
a fence and gate around our twenty acres. It is a controversial subject,
since many people do have knee-jerk reaction to the phrase "gated
community." The fence decision was made early on by the developer and early
participants. There were several reasons, only one of which was honestly to
make middle class folks from "safer" neighborhoods feel comfortable moving
(with their young children) into what was then a rather high-crime area.
(Several obvious crack houses within a few blocks of us; lots of car theft,
etc.) Prior to our acquisition of this land, it had been used for years as
a convenient dumping ground. At significant expense we had to haul out
hundreds or old tires and other miscellaneous debris. In place of that we
now have a clean stream and pond and a large garden (1 acre now, will be 4)
which represents a lot of investment in crops and equipment. Also, during
construction, the building materials needed to be secured. Finally, during
early discussions with our neighbors, many of them LIKED the idea that the
fence would protect them from US. (For instance it will keep our auto
traffic our of the quiet neighborhood streets - we bought a right-of-way
our to a busy commercial street for our entrance.) 

Now to neighborhood involvement: we have not even moved in yet, but have
developed substantial connections to the surrounding area, especially the
one neighborhood that directly adjoins us. One of our members, who was
planning to rent in East Lake Commons, wound up renting a house on the
nearby neighborhood street. She is an activist by trade, and is deeply
involved with the local youth and with other folks who are working hard to
improve this area. With our full-time gardner, who now also lives on the
same street, they have helped kids create small neighborhood gardens,
arrange empty lot clean-ups, etc.

Some of our members already attend and support the local neighborhood
association. We've participated in large numbers when there's been
something like a block party. At our ground-breaking ceremony and other big
events we've had on the site, adults and kids from the neighborhood were
invited and attended. We've chipped in as individuals to a fund that was
improving street lighting.  

Finally, from the very first program statement, educational outreach was
one of the major legs of our vision. These activities have ALSO already
begun, at least a year before anyone has moved in. The educational focus is
environmental issues and organic farming, but I think the concept of
cohousing will also play a role. East Lake Common, Inc., our development
corporation, is able to receive grants and tax-deductible contributions
though a local 503(c)(3) foundation. We have raised over a hundred thousand
dollars so far, which goes into developing the farm, some water-management
features, the classroom, and we hope will also support use of some
sustainable (and more expensive) building materials and techniques in the
Common House, which will then serve as a demonstration piece of the
educational program. 

>I carefully considered whether I should write this, since I'm being very
>critical. But we need to ask the hard questions sometimes in order to keep
>ourselves honest.

No offense taken. We struggle all the time with these issues. There is a
fine line between positive improvement of a neighborhood and
gentrification. East Lake Commons is only a small piece of a much larger
trend that is bringing back the whole general area from a state of decline.
The crack houses are gone; many vacant or dilapidated houses have been
renovated and turned over to new tenants; many absentee-landlord situations
have been converted to home-ownership. The stalwart long-term homeowners in
this neighborhood are thrilled to see the area come back to the "nice place
to live" that is was when they moved in some decades ago. As soon as the
HOA is fully turned over from the development corporation to the
homeowners, someone is sure to propose that we take the fence down, or at
least disable the gate. Will we do it?  I don't know. Stay tuned for future
developments. 

Ginny Moreland
East Lake Commons
Decatur, GA - a few blocks outside the Atlanta city limits 

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