Monday, October 15, 2012

On Building Community


Inspired by Andrea's idea of having a mantra for the year, I deemed 2012 the year to "make dreams happen." We moved to Austin so I could work on starting the city's first public Montessori school, and we started building momentum for a co-housing community. We identified land (as well as an amazing family to live there with us!). I started attending events sponsored by the folks who had been trying to bring co-housing to Austin for about a decade. I formed a good relationship with one of the founders of that movement. 

The amazing, affordable land that we were going to buy turned out to be entirely in the flood plain (which is a major no-go in Austin development). The family with whom we were going to build a community bought their own house instead (they were in a hurry to settle in before their baby came). I started to realize that I wasn't going to be able to make the co-housing thing work within a timeline that would allow my family to settle in and put down roots in the Austin community fast enough (I want Henry to have the stable, connected childhood that I wasn't able to have). To make it work, we would have had to save up for years to purchase a large parcel of land ourselves and then save up more money to build on it and then sub-divide it and sell it off to people interested in community. The process would have taken years and would have been very lonely in the meantime.

While that was going on, I started doing home visits to meet families interested in sending their children to the school I'm working to start. I met with several families all within the same neighborhood in East Austin. All of the families were creative, welcoming, and interesting--exactly the kind of people I would love to raise Henry around. The neighborhood also happened to be within our target geographic region. We're trying to recruit families from seven neighborhoods, which range from some of the highest poverty areas in Austin to neighborhoods that are already gentrified. We want the school to be racially, culturally, and socio-economically diverse.

I asked my realtor to do a land search for me in the particular neighborhood (which is low- to middle-income), and she found a 1/2 acre for sale that backed up to a creek. Because the co-housing concept was going to require that we build a house, we had already started working with a pre-fab, modular company to figure out how to build a modern, eco-friendly, relatively inexpensive home. 

I worried a lot about the high level of crime in the area, but we ultimately decided that it would be utterly amazing to live within the same community where I want to build a school for diverse families. The house we're building + the land it's on is $4 per square foot less expensive than the average renovated home is selling for within a mile radius.  

So we're getting ready to start construction any day now. We're waiting for the final appraisal to go through (we had to remove the appliances and the fence from the construction budget to lower it). We're also waiting for a building permit from the city.

Now it's time to think about building community. I missed National Night Out this year. Because we're living in a rental in the south of Austin, I haven't wanted to make too many connections and put down too many roots. I'm eager, however, to start connecting with my soon-to-be-neighbors. 

First idea on the to-do list: 
  • Schedule a play date at the neighborhood park for families interested in the school. I would love to get to know the families better, answer questions, and begin to introduce Henry to the friends he will go to school with for 11 years (pre-K3 through 8th grade).
Okay, I'm going to go schedule it now...

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Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: Staying grounded with mantras



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1 comment:

Tammy C. said...

Getting ready to start construction on your new home must be so exciting! Congratulations Sara! My partner & I are about to go through the process of determining whether to renovate our current home to be the dream home, purchase another home that would require less renovation to be the dream home or purchase land and a modular home - I have no doubt this process will involve many lists which I will definitely enjoy compiling!

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