Monday, August 16, 2010. When you turn into the driveway from the busy four-lane thoroughfare, you’re greeted by trees and flowers within the central parking lot and in front of the surrounding warm-colored apartments. It’s an oasis of lush green biodiversity, a rural-feeling village within an urban surround. Permaculture put into practice.
In the four years since we taped Pam and Joe Leitch of the Portland Permaculture Institute, they’ve accomplished the impossible. Their renovated farmhouse in northeastern Portland has expanded to become a 37-unit ecovillage. They purchased an adjoining apartment complex which they upgraded to be as energy efficient and green as reasonably possible. And they worked entirely “the system” to get construction loans and enable mortgage financing as a condominium.
At the same time, they established the ecovillage vision and values, by-laws, and had numerous meetings with potential members to make sure the fit was good both for prospective and existing members. In spite of the economic crash of 2008, the ecovillage was fully bought into by opening day in spring of 2009. And the residents had already begun bonding as a community.
It seemed to us that the community members are comfortable with one another. Like an extended family, perhaps. The eight-year old who greeted us knew right where Joe and Pam live. We taped our conversation not only with Joe and Pam, but also with several community members. You’ll get a flavor for the many working groups, required trainings in conflict resolution and consensus, and what it’s like living there.
It seems this ecovillage didn’t have to wait for years for people to bond into a community: it took the fast track not only for renovation but for community-building. A model for creating intentional community in place, and a good resource for others wishing to do likewise.