Originally Written By Ryan Stanton | firstname.lastname@example.org
on December 19, 2016 at 2:38 PM, updated December 19, 2016 at 3:07 PM
ANN ARBOR, MI - A proposal for a solar-powered, mixed-income cottage community next to County Farm Park in Ann Arbor, including both affordable housing and market-rate housing, is starting to generate buzz.
Ann Arbor resident Matt Grocoff, founder of THRIVE Collaborative, has unveiled a vision for an environmentally sustainable community of 125 to 150 new housing units on 12.5 acres of vacant county-owned land at 2270 Platt Road.
It's a collaboration between several partners, including Ann Arbor-based nonprofit affordable housing provider Avalon Housing, Habitat for Humanity, Jonna Luxury Homes, Union Studio, SmithGroupJJR and Biohabitats.
Veridian at County Farm, as the project is being called, aims to redefine land development and provide tangible community benefits, according to a 132-page proposal submitted to the county by THRIVE Collaborative.
It's one of six development proposals for the vacant site under consideration by the county, but it appears to be the first to be made public. Grocoff has shared his team's vision on social media in recent days.
The Ann Arbor News and MLive have a Freedom of Information Act request pending with the county for the other five proposals.
"Veridian homes will be designed with exceptional energy conservation meeting the world's most rigorous performance standards," the Veridian proposal states. "Our mission is to eventually eliminate the energy bills for all Veridian residents. Our investment in solar energy will provide free clean energy forever."
Veridian would be an all-electric community and none of the buildings would use combustion appliances of any kind, the proposal states.
"Homes get their energy from the sun, and by designing to increase solar gain, buildings require less energy to begin with," it states. "Additionally, we are looking at the possibility of creating a district-wide geothermal heating system."
Food production is another major aspect of the proposal.
"It is imperative that we stabilize and grow local food ecosystems. Much of the Veridian landscape will be dedicated to food production," it states. "Veridian is targeting a minimum of 30% edible landscape. The Farmhouse will also serve as a daily farm stop open all year using the model of Argus Farm Stop. This provides a space where residents can sell fresh or processed product for a retail price."
The project has support from more than 100 neighbors and various agencies, including the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Ozone House.
It calls for at least 50 units of affordable housing to be built by Avalon Housing, including 25 supportive housing units designated for people earning 30 percent of the area median income or less and 25 units for people earning 60 percent of AMI or less. But that would be only a portion of the development, which includes a range of other market-rate options.
The proposal shows this breakdown:
- 40% affordable housing units (townhouses, stacked flats and potential single-family cottage) targeting 30%, 60% and 80% AMI
- 16% Micro housing: Targeting workforce housing ($105,000 sale price)
- 34% Tuck Unders: Market rate ($375,000-$579,000 sale price)
- 10% Cottage Homes (average $456,000 sale price)
"We believe that affordable housing can be beautiful, economically integrated, and spiritually uplifting," the proposal states.
"With a holistic look at affordability, we see Veridian as a platform for transformative ideas of net zero energy (eliminating carbon and energy costs), food production, water management, transportation, and design that improves quality of life and social systems."
The county issued a request for proposals for the Platt Road site earlier this year, giving prospective developers until Dec. 1 to submit ideas.
The county has released the following general summary of the six competing proposals from TWG Development, Burton-Katzman LLC, Archinvest, Robertson Brothers Homes, THRIVE Collaborative and Avalon Housing:
Avalon Housing is a collaborative partner with THRIVE and is supportive of its proposal, though it put in an independent bid as well.
Roughly 100 neighbors of the Platt Road site signed on to a recent letter to the county board in support of the Veridian project.
"We love and enjoy County Farm Park, and we are pleased that every home in this plan will have a path leading into the park," the letter reads. "We love how walkable and bikeable our community is, and wish to see the development of best-practice streets designed for people over machines. We cannot wait to see a neighborhood free from fossil-fuel powered combustion, ready to function into the next century using only renewable energy like solar and geothermal. We want to show our children that very soon we will all live this way."
The neighbors' letter goes on to say the proposal also meets the need to promote social justice and reduce inequalities by including affordable housing.
"We welcome the chance to create a place where we all live side-by-side and rise together," the letter continues.
"The THRIVE collaborative is offering us the opportunity to welcome a model for the future -- a truly sustainable community that harvests its electricity from the sun, its heating from the earth, its food from the soil, and its water from the sky."
The Veridian project aims to embed affordable housing within a mixed-income community, with integration of home types and styles.
"The goal is for affordable housing and market rate to both be approached with dignity, so as to increase social interaction and upward mobility," the proposal states. "To get there, Veridian incorporates innovative approaches to affordability through human-scale design."
The proposal describes pedestrian paths allowing people to walk from their door through a green thread into County Farm Park.
"Veridian provides over a dozen pathways from all neighborhoods to County Farm park," the proposal states. "Additionally, our Farmhouse community center is an important public amenity that is open to every resident of Veridian and the broader Washtenaw County community. The places to play are designed to be appreciated by everyone of all ages."
THRIVE Collaborative is offering the county $500,000 for the property, though it maintains the county would receive other compensation and community benefits worth more than $4.9 million from the overall $10.1 million project.
"As a community, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor have articulated our goals for addressing: affordable housing, clean energy and water, threatening climate impacts, floodwater mitigation, mobility, habitat loss and other critical public challenges," Grocoff writes in the proposal.
"We have unwavering hope. But we are failing to meet our goals. In fact, on many metrics, we are losing ground. If we are serious about the criticality of this moment, then we must work together for creative, fresh and flexible solutions. We cannot afford the status quo," he continued. "The standard development model is deeply flawed. We subsidize developers by allowing them to avoid the cost of their negative impacts. As a community, we pay the price for formulaic development when it pollutes our air and water, degrades our social systems and mental health, increases carbon emissions, and weakens local ecosystems."
Grocoff, who is partnering with David Eifrid of Greenlife Building LLC, calls Veridian an act of optimism.
"It is more than a sustainable neighborhood," he writes. "It is a platform to stoke our capacities for collaboration, creativity and compassion. We wish to demonstrate how forward-thinking local governments can engage their own citizens, private and non-profit, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and achieve public goals more effectively."