Friday, June 17, 2011

Planned solar-powered Bainbridge development could be the greenest around

Kitsap Sun
By Tristan Baurick
Posted June 7, 2011 at 7:13 p.m.
— The planned Grow Community will be one of the largest developments the island has seen in decades. It might also be one of the greenest in the state. 

Contributed Artwork The proposed Grow Community, seen in this artist's rendering, might be one of the greenest developments in the state.
With the goal of drawing all of its power from the sun, the 137-home project is aiming for one of the nation's first endorsements from the BioRegional Development Group, an international nonprofit that promotes the creation of earth-friendly neighborhoods through its One Planet Communities program.

Grow Community, which is planned for a nearly 8-acre site in downtown Winslow, would be the first project in the state endorsed under the One Planet program.

"This is an ambitious project that has really pushed us to get creative," said Marja Preston, a planner for the Bainbridge-based Asani development company.

Proposed about a year ago, Asani announced its One Planet goals this week. The project won't break ground until next year.

The project's 87 rental apartments and 50 single-family homes will be built with energy and water-efficiency in-mind. The centrally located site will have features that encourage walking, biking and small-scale food production.

The One Planet program has endorsed housing projects in the United Kingdom, Portugal and California, and is working with developers on at least nine new projects in France, South Africa, China and Australia.

An endorsement doesn't grant tax breaks or any other incentives. All Grow Community will get is One Planet's stamp of approval.

"But that can help with marketability," Preston said. "We will be different than anything else on the market."

While other environmentally sustainable certification programs focus on individual buildings, One Planet takes a broader approach, assessing how a development encourages a more earth-friendly way of life.

The One Planet-endorsed Sonoma Mountain Village in San Francisco, for instance, earned points for its links to a commuter rail line and its five-minute walking distance from a farmers market, thereby promoting the use of local foods. Sonoma Mountain also is outfitted with solar panels and aims to have its residents use 65 percent less municipal water than a typical city resident.

The main idea of One Planet neighborhoods is to reduce each resident's natural resource consumption, said Geof Syphers, a green building consultant for One Planet's North American programs.

He said that if each person on the planet ate, drank, drove and produced waste at the same rate as Americans, an additional 4.5 Earths would be needed just to meet demand.

"We, as Americans, are deficit spenders when it comes to natural resources," he said.

To offset that deficit, Grow Community plans to draw all its energy from on-site and off-site solar panels. Most of the panels would be spread across the development's roofs. Additional panels could be located elsewhere on the island.

Vehicle parking would be located in consolidated areas away from homes, making residents more likely to use the development's trail network as their primary means of getting around. The trails, including a main public one, would funnel residents toward Madison Avenue, where a farmers market, a grocery store and various Winslow shops are within easy reach. Only one parking space is planned for each home.

"This is for five-minute living," Preston said, referring to the time it would take to walk to several downtown destinations.

The L-shaped property stretches along Wyatt Way between the Pavilion commercial complex and Grow Avenue. About 20 homes would be demolished to make way for Grow Community, most of which are ramblers along John Adams Way.

The development's initial plans include public improvements along Grow and Wyatt, including bike lanes and sidewalks where none currently exists.

Asani is in talks to relocate the 120-student Madrona School into three of the development's buildings totaling about 20,000 square feet. The private, Waldorf-affiliated school has outgrown its shared location at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.

"We like the sustainability goals (of the development) because they're really compatible with a Waldorf education," said Amanda Sturgeon, a Madrona parent leading the school's relocation effort.

Grow Community's many amenities won't come cheap, but Preston said Asani hopes to balance the project with a price at the lower end of the Bainbridge real estate spectrum. A one-, two- or three-bedroom home could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $390,000.

"Affordability and (population) diversity has been a primary goal from day one," Preston said.

Asani plans to build four homes by May to test the residential market. Reaction to the four homes will then guide larger building phases, probably beginning near Shepard Way on the site's south border.

Full build-out could take six years.

Asani owner Bill Carruthers built Winslow's Vineyard Lane condominium project and the Island Gateway commercial project taking shape on Winslow Way.

Along with the One World endorsement, Grow Community is aiming for the gold level in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

Asani is hoping for a density boost through the city's Housing Design Demonstration Project, a pilot initiative that allows a zoning upgrade for sustainably-built affordable housing. Grow Community would be the second HDDP development after Ferncliff Village, which breaks ground this month.

Grow Community's density bonuses would be earned largely through its earth-friendly amenities rather than low-end pricing. The project is not aiming for affordable housing status or public funding.

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