NEW NEIGHBORHOOD TAPS THE POWER OF PEOPLE AND THE SUN
Inspired by prominent sustainability architect William McDonough’s entreaty, “How can we love all the children of all species for all time?” builder and developer Sue Cosentini has created Amabel Pocket Neighborhood, a community of 30 homes in Ithaca, New York that will be available for purchase later this month.
Amabel is a venture of New Earth Living, a development company founded by Cosentini. New Earth Living previously developed the highly successful Aurora Street Pocket Neighborhood in the City of Ithaca. Pocket neighborhoods, as defined by architect Ross Chapin, are clusters of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space––a courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley––that has a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship.
A culture of sustainability, resource-use reduction, and fun, expansive relationships will be integral to Amabel. The homes will be built to achieve ultra airtight, net-zero energy efficiency, with roof solar exposure maximized for photovoltaic energy production. With the use of all-electric appliances, devices, and heat sources, the utility bill for each household that chooses to install solar panels is designed to net out annually at zero. Edible landscaping, water collection, and a large central courtyard for organic gardening, dining, relaxing, and playing are also part of the composition.
The location of Amabel at 619 Five Mile Drive, on flat terrain just outside the city limits, further decreases its energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions by reducing the need for a car and, consequently, vehicle miles traveled. Situated near the urban core, Amabel conserves natural areas for animal habitat and arable land for local food production.
The Amabel vision considers communication and connection among people to be as much a part of a vibrant, sustainable future as powerful tangible advances are. Even though we naturally form tribes and groups, people wonder, “Can I really have playful, judgment-free relationships with my neighbors? Can we easily resolve the problems that may arise?” These are valid concerns: Care, respect, and trust do not simply happen. It is no coincidence that “community” and “communication” share the same root: “commun.” To “commune” means “to be in a state of intimate sensitivity and receptivity.”
To that end, Cosentini will bring another passion of hers to Amabel. For over five years, she has taught a communication course called The Listening Workshop, both at Ithaca College and once a month at Ithaca Community Childcare. She asserts that the distinctions in this approach to communication are a powerful access to strong bonds of care, respect, and trust.
The best way she knows to describe this way of listening is “hearing with your eyes.” Instead of listening through our typical filters of judgement, problem solving, questions, advice, or the classic “my similar story or experience,” Cosentini suggests that we listen by imagining what it might be like to be the speaker, seeing what they are seeing, and giving them ample time to talk about what really matters to them.
“What this way of listening does is keep you in their world so you are responding from their experience, instead of your perspective, says Cosentini. “This is the greatest gift you can give someone––to attentively try on what it is like to be them. I think this focus and intentionality causes a deep connection of care, respect, and trust. I am certainly no expert, but I am pretty sure those are the key ingredients of love.”
For more information on how the Amabel Pocket Neighborhood will realize the ideals of sustainability, net-zero efficiency, and fun, connected relationships, visit http://amabel.newearthliving.net/.
coz [at] newearthliving [dot] net