We started our journey in May of 2020 – during COVID lockdown. Susan and Dave both have adult children with IDD and were keen to find somewhere for them to live independently – a permanent home with shared common space where they could spend time with their neighbors enjoying a range of activities, social engagement and regularly preparing and eating meals together. After hours of research we discovered co-housing – a concept which appeared to embrace much of what we envisioned for our young adults.
Dave had already identified a piece of property in Lakeland – a small lot across from a grocery store, walk in clinic, coffee shop and more.. Unfortunately, we discovered the property was under contract and eventually sold. While we looked at other options we were introduced to Gail who had been researching senior co-housing in the Lakeland area for several years. The three of us started meeting regularly via Zoom and then in person at coffee shops in Lakeland. As a result of our meetings, we determined that a community comprising seniors and adults with IDD would be a great combination. Our vision was for our community to be replicable, provide a range of activities, events and eduction for our residents and extend into the greater community. We formed our non profit and submitted our tax exempt application.
During the next few months, we spent hours researching and visiting available land, exploring options with City of Lakeland property and reaching out to other community members to share our vision. It was a tough time; despite the pandemic, property was moving quickly – as soon as we found an option we liked, it went under offer or bidding exceeded the amount we had set aside to purchase property. We contined our search and also reached out to many of the co-housing communities throughout the US to speak with resudebts, founding members, architects, developers, project managers, and builders. We thank everyone who helped us during this part of our journey, generously giving their time to share their experiences and answering our many questions.
One Saturday in April 2021, Gail, Susan and her son Adam were in Lakeland and drove past the piece of property that Dave had identified the previous year. We discovered a “for sale” sign on the half acre lot – we called the agent who told us the propertywas back on the market. We moved quickly, submitted an offer and agreed a contract the same day!! Now the race was on to carry out due diligence and create a site plan.
Susan, Dave & Gail, with Scott’s help, identified our dream team. We met with Steve, Erica & Philip of The Lunz Group who exceeded our brief in squeezing the maximum 11 units, 1800 sq ft common house, pool, gazebo, covered parking, storage and more onto the lot!! Next stage was to obtain soil sampling and a tree survey before completing our due diligence, finalise our site plan and submit to the City of Lakeland Planning Department for review.
In June 2021 Dave, Gail and Mike Flora of Sloan Engineering carried out a tree survey – they identified and measured trees that fell within the footprint of the proposed design plan. In addition, Imperial Testing & Engineering, Inc. carried out soil sampling. Preminary results were forwarded to The Lunz Group and we anxiously awaited their assessment of the data. At a Concept Design meeting on June 23rd we received the news that the preliminary report looked good!!
Harwood Village Development LLC was formed on July 9 and purchased our property at 211 West Oak Drive on July 28. Gail, Adam, Susan and Scott attended closing with attorney Craig Hill at Peterson & Myers offices in Downtown Lakeland. Now the hard work really starts!!!