Nelson developer Alan Dodsworth believes there are plenty of residents interested in innovative and community-based housing developments, but they lack the means to create the infrastructure necessary.
That’s where he comes in.
“The idea of community kept cropping up for me. I kept asking how as a developer can I facilitate community?” the 66-year-old owner of New Leaf Development told the Star.
“When people think about it, they usually think in terms of the intentional community structure, which can be quite a big endeavour. I thought if I could provide the infrastructure for community, then community would happen.”
His latest project involves building 10 homes on a piece of land neighbouring Rosemont Elementary called Village Green. There will be individual tracts of land for each house, with parking separate. There will be a centralized field where he envisions a community garden growing.
‘I think this project will be a model’
Nelson realtor Jeff Nield is the listing agent for Village Green, and he believes the project hits both ends of the market — new families looking for their first home, and higher end buyers looking to down-size.
“If all 10 of these houses were built, they’d be sold already,” he said, noting that pre-sales are rarer in Nelson than in markets like Vancouver.
“This is going to be an important step in the whole grand scheme of what can be done in Nelson, and I think it will be a model for other developers.”
Nield said the bare land strata they’re using to govern the community is used routinely outside city limits, but is extremely rare for a suburb like Rosemont.
“The crux is you wouldn’t be able to take that piece of land and put up 10 separate homes, but the bare land strata means the people living there are sharing certain responsibilities and costs.”
This sort of project is hot right now, Nield said.
“Small is big, so to speak, and community living is also a big deal these days. There’s been at least the lip service from the city that they want density, but sometimes that comes up against practical things like zoning and bylaws.”
But he’s seen council be flexible.
“I’ve seen a willingness to look at things that are innovative and see how they can fit, and if they can’t fit how they can be changed or modified.”
Buying swampland in Rosemont
So far Village Green has one house sold and completed, while two more are on the way. Dodsworth’s hoping to complete construction by the end of 2018, four years after purchasing the land.
At that point it was in poor condition.
“It was a large piece of property that had been sitting on the market for many years because it was really wet. There was a bunch of bullrushes growing in the middle,” he said.
“People often joke about buying swampland in Florida, so I would say that I bought some in Rosemont.”
Luckily for him, the school district rebuilt a retaining wall at the edge of his property last summer and redirected the run-off into city storm sewers, ridding him of 90 per cent of the water.
Once the project is complete, Dodsworth hopes it will have a positive impact on the affordable housing crisis in town and demonstrate for other developers the possibilities that are available.
“I’m really aware of the issue of affordable housing. Sometimes it seems like a hopeless cause for me because year after year the demands put on builders push up prices. It’s a tough one,” he said.
“This is the biggest project I’ve ever taken on, and I’m hoping it will help me afford to retire. But for me it’s more about providing something of good quality that meets people needs, and I think a lot of development these days doesn’t do that.”
‘A lot of the time we don’t know our neighbours’
Village Green’s homes are all small footprint and energy-efficient, and each building will go for $339,000. Dodsworth has worked on a number of similar projects in the last few decades, including renovating and revitalizing Willow Point Lodge, but said this is the most innovative one.
He’s pleased with the support he’s received.
“As far as city staff is concerned, it’s been a positive experience for me. I think there are ways the city could improve their efficiency in dealing with projects like this, I talked to the mayor about this a few months ago, but I appreciate it’s very complex,” he said.
He thinks once the project is complete the people living there will be more connected than the families living in traditional homes in the area.
“A lot of the time we don’t know our neighbours. That’s an issue not just here but everywhere. The more we live our lives in front of screens and media, the less we’re connected to each other. So my vision is that the people who live and work here together will be close and connected.”
He didn’t call it Village Green without a reason.
“I was raised in England, and in many villages you’ll find a village green surrounded by houses, where everyone comes together — which is exactly what I’m doing here.”