Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Community Feeling, from a commenter

From a supportive commenter! This is too good not to share!

I live in the city, but the time is maybe, possibly near for a move to a more residential location. When I think about moving, I worry about finding the amazing neighbors I have here and I have to admit that reading your blog has me thinking the community feeling I have in my little neighborhood can be found elsewhere.

I've been following your story from the start and will continue to do so. Thanks for sharing so much of your experience at Belvedere.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Belvedere Tracking Club

I am looking for a group of people interested in learning animal track and sign and applying their skills to Belvedere and Dunlora. Our areas of interest include the forest, Rivanna Trail, the flood plain and the riverside. I would love a committed group of 5 people ideally between the ages of 9 and 99. The work is very detail oriented and we hike although the physical activity is not rigorous with regard to difficulty or distance. You may have to spend time on the ground however, so knees are important.

I am currently interested in the red fox activity on our land here. Please email me of you are interested,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Big Snow

Belvedere (and all Charlottesville) got hit with a huge snowstorm just the weekend before Christmas. We were out last night cheering on the show and having a block-long snowball battle. This morning we all shoveled, and decided it was actually too deep for sledding. So it's inside to bake cookies and watch a few movies, then hopefully later we can try to build a huge snow fort.

Snow is nice when you feel like you're the only living human for miles, but it's also hugely fun with neighbors!

Here are some more photos on Flickr:

Making The Jewel Called Belvedere

I am sitting at my desk remembering the feelings of the early days of Belvedere. The design phase was extremely exciting and I became very committed to the project, every corner, every brick, every facet. Then came the execution phase, or rather the "doing," and the recession hit the new building sector as hard as it had been hit since the Great Depression. As we turned into that part of the story, I began to called the developer Jumping Mouse.

Do you all know that story? A small mouse hears a noise. It is the sound of the river that he has never seen and gathers courage to go and see it. While he is there he meets a magical frog who encourages him to have a vision and follow it. Against all pressures to stay the same and in the same place, the small mouse, now renamed Jumping Mouse, follows his vision. As he jumped, he saw the mountains in the distance and vowed to go there. But first he must cross the plain where he is vulnerable to predators. Along the way, he meets creatures that protect him only after he has made a sacrifice. In the end, he reaps the benefits of his sacrifice and gains new heights of experience and life goals.

I love this story and joked with Frank Stoner that Stonehaus was a Jumping Mouse. The developer and the builders had a vision, one that is different from the surrounding developments. Pelted by reporters, critics, naysayers, and holier-than-thous, Belvedere got started and then work stopped as the elegant builder Church Hill was folded into Eagle, and the banks halted work by Hauser Homes. Jumping Mouse, I said, you are in the plains, vulnerable to predators. Surely, there is a lot I don't know about the allies the developer found along the way. I am aware of the sacrifices as I watched Stonehaus let go employees and whittle itself down to a skeleton crew. I know that Church Hill and Hauser subcontractors also suffered. I listened to Bob Hauser passionately talk about his life as a builder at a meeting of Belvedere residents. I got tired of listening to and reading the critics of everything Belvedere, and am still hoping that one reporter will have the courage to write about the project for its innovation and its commitment to sustainability and community.

Yes, I am still here. Yes, I still think the project is going to pan out. Yes, I still believe in it. I think the project changed and is changing, adapting to the sacrifices that had to happen for the development to survive.

I have a new metaphor for you Frank Stoner and Bob Hauser, and everyone who is still here, still working, still believing, and emodying the vision. I have heard people say that Belvedere is a jewel among development projects. Yes, I agree. It is a beauty. I love the small city homes, elegant and small. They are like the old homes of the cities I travel in when I work. I see the same patterns. I love the bigger homes as well and look forward to really seeing the empty spaces fill in. Belvedere is truly not like any neighborhood I have been in anywhere. It is a beauty, at least to my eyes. It doesn't have lots of big yards that Americans are used to. But it does have sweet homes, community, green space, nature, and other amenities that really make it a home. A home is more than a house. A home is an experience.

Real jewels are a long time in the making, especially diamonds. It takes a lot of pressure to make a precious stone. And different ingredients. In the jewel metaphor, I would say that this phase of Belvedere is the pressure phase. The making of a diamond involved melting, chemistry and pressure. I think all that is here for Belvedere. The chemistry is the combination of the design and those of us that inhabit it. Committed Belvedereans put up their own playground while waiting for the design and building of the new playground. We are working on being a community with and for each other. Stonehaus and the various builders are working on new home designs that are affordable and beautiful. The original design still stands.

So, Stonehaus, keep going. I can see the outline of the jewel as it is being formed. Soon, there will be the mining phase, and critics, I know what you are going to say, and this is what I say to you: Any business owner is in business to make a living. That is, in part, what is happening here for those who are designing, building and selling. But Belvedere is more than houses, more than builders. It is a gutsy design with human development in mind, and includes a more-than-human world. I will hold Stonehaus to that if I can. I urge critics to think Big Picture. I would love to see what your creative minds can see and comment on, if you move beyond the tendancy to take apart and complain.

I pledge to write more and record more about Belvedere in 2010. AND, I need to get back to tracking!

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Only Place in Town

I have had many visitors lately, and they all say, "This is the only place in town that seems prosperous!" or "This is the only place in town I see new houses being built!" Yup. That's us. Belvedere. There only place in town!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Sweet It Is

I have the sweetest little massage studio in Belvedere. This morning, another resident and I climbed up the steps of my carriage unit where my studio is for an early massage. With the chilly wet outside, the inside seemed warm, cozy, welcoming, and unique. I am certainly hoping that I can get my small massage and craniosacral practice going in that special place. I offer high quality massage garnered over years of experience and training. I still need to finish the blue stone walkway out to the gate, but I hope to make that studio my professional home for the years to come.

After the massage, my client went off to work and I walked across the yard to my home. How sweet it is!

Friday, October 9, 2009

We All Want To Be Here!

Do you want to know what it is like to live in a place where Everyone Wants To Be Here! It's AWESOME! We are all so happy, even if the newspapers and blog and real estate agents want to think of this development as stalled. AND it is NOT stalled. Man, we are selling houses. New houses. And there are great families that live here. It is multi-cultural, multi-generational, and integrated with both cats AND dogs. There are all kinds of people who live here, and we don't all own those fancy hybrid cars either.

Not everyone on the planet wants to be here. Some are really adamant they hate being alive. Others are quite ambivalent about it. And then there are those who want to be here. Belvedere is attracting that group. Come and enjoy being ALIVE . . . . at Belvedere.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Children and Nature on the Wake-up Call


My good friend Jim Duncan got me on the Wake-up Call talking about Children and Nature. Give it a listen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Photos of Belvedere

Spent some time in the nice early morning light trying to catch images that show off the neighborhood. The link below is to a Flickr photo set I made.
Photos of Belvedere August 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Year

Sitting down to write this blog entry has been hard. I dragged my feet to this spot. I have been thinking about it for at least a month. I kept telling myself, it will be easy. But it hasn't been. I could easily cite a lot of excuses but I think it has to do with competing ideas. Belvedere has been, is and will be great for us, but there have been some losses, too. Here is my one year report.

I went in a few of the new houses the other day. The smells, the dust, the mostly finished state reminds me so much of when we were moving in a year ago. I remember the excitement of building the new house and see much of the same in the new families moving in. Ahh, nostalgia. How I wish sometimes I could go back to those heady days when Belvedere was just beginning. There were only a few houses up and it was a fresh idea and an innovative project. I was all over it (still am), seeing how nature, people, and development could come together in a new way. As promised, I made my permaculture garden. I also run small nature programs for my kids and their friends here and hope to run more if I ever get some infrastructure.

When Bret and I signed on to live in Belvedere, we went over worst case scenarios, so we were not fazed by the builder going out of business, the freeze in building in general, the struggles of the economy. We both knew and know that Belvedere will succeed. When you crest the hill next to the Fairview swim club and see all the pretty houses and the beauty of the land, it is so wonderful. The mornings are great, the breeze in the day makes you feel like you are at the beach, the natural world is right there at my fingertips, and the evening sky makes my walks after dinner a joy and a treat. I love everything about Belvedere, still. The front porches, the "cool space" as I remember the team telling me during our first interviews at Stonehaus, are really wonderful hallmarks of the community that is starting to grow here. We are friendly. We are given to nightly walks together with the dogs and children, playing in the alley, and spontaneous porch and sidewalk parties. I have pinch myself as I walk to the pool to swim, ride my bike or run along Belvedere's trails.

We have more than survived the nuclear winter of new building. We were the first family in August 2008. Now we have 12 families, and some new houses started, and more prospects on the horizon. There are a few families building that I have not met yet, so the numbers may even be higher. Despite efforts from the Hook and The Daily Progress to somehow paint Belvedere as a failing project, the project has not tanked. In fact, it is one of the few new projects in Albemarle county that is doing well.

So, what are the losses, you might ask? Here are my disappointments:

  • It was hard for me when members of the design team left the project. I notice I still struggle with that. Watching Stonehaus dwindle to almost nothing in staff was surprising.
  • The village green. The design really doesn't work. The amphitheatre makes it standoff-ish. We need play structures, too, either there or somewhere. Bret and I offered to buy a small one for the community but we haven't had much support from Stonehaus. I am guessing they are just too busy to help implement something, so it is really up to us to make that happen. We are working on it.
  • The landscaping. I know it is expensive, but one of the things that really sold me on Belvedere was this idea of all the native trees being planted. The development team just can't do that now with no money, so that is a big disappointment for me. I am guessing that at some point there will be more money for the trees, but right now, there is not. The infrastructure may or may not be there for the future.
  • The Civic Core. I don't know when that is going to be built but it would be nice to have the Town Hall for community events. One of the articles trying to paint Belvedere as a failed project did touch upon a sore point for me: we were promised a lot and now we don't know when all those promises are going to be fulfilled. Yet, we are consistently told they will be. That means Civic Core and Town Center. It is totally understandable that some of these things are not built, but I wonder, will Belvedere be finished after my children are grown?
  • The dumping and the trespassing. People come back here, dump their trash, neck, and get rowdy. We catch them periodically and suggest they might not want to do that. I guess this place was a habitual marginal land where these activities happened regularly.
That's my short brutal list of disappointments. Otherwise, I think that the future holds bright for Belvedere! We have plans to continue to grow and develop. Everyone seems satisfied. I have no doubt this project will adapt and go on to succeed. We are also clear that it will take the residents' energy to make Belvedere special, and there are some very special people here, people committed to the vision of the place. Here are some of the best parts of Belvedere:

  • If you live here, you gotta like people (and maybe dogs, too). We are here because we want to be in relationship. If you have read my blog for this last year, you will read how being in community increases your health. It is real.
  • Belvedere's design is supported by neuroscience. Perhaps known or not known by the designers, the New Urbanist design that includes green, sidewalks, and alley's are shown to be what humans need for optimal growth and health.
  • The houses are AWESOME. Now, I am not really a house person. I am an outdoor person. But living in this house has spoiled me. I go in a lot of houses with my job. I am a sensitive creature to my surround. I can go in houses now and feel the quality of craftsmanship. This house that Church Hill built for us is magnificent. The first night in it, I cried and said, "This house is too fancy for me!" I have gotten used to it, a liiitttllle bit. It still blows me away.
  • The trails. I am out there on the trails all the time. I LOVE them. Thank you Rivanna Trail people!
  • Another big and wonderful thing has been the passion, commitment and presence of Bob Hauser. I know that many people have opinions about Hauser Homes, and I was subject to many of those opinions and the realities associated with them. I will say that he has very much impressed me and I believe that this project will be different than things he has done in the past.
I know my neighbors have some disappointments, too, like the television and the telephone service (having the company for North Carolina manage all that probably was not the wisest choice), and the traffic from Dunlora whipping around our neighborhood, but overall, my expectations have been met and even exceeded.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Coming soon

July 31 marks our year anniversary. One heck of a blog coming up. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

. . .It's Like Watching Your Dream Come True

It is after dinner on a Saturday. We are about to go upstairs to give the kids their bath when we look outside and see the new families who have just moved in outside in the alley. The kids are playing and people are talking, drinking beer, eating ice cream, and considering their new place with thoughtful eyes. We all enthusiastically head outside. The alley has become the central meeting place. Hooray for Caty Lane! I meet the new neighbors behind us for the first time and then engage in play with the children. Hoola-hooping yeah! I am gonna get good at that, I say to the children. They laugh and hoop around every part of their body! I can barely do it.

The four-year olds wander about doing things together, the little dog runs about seeking affection from everyone, the beautiful mother next door chats with me and laughs when my husband can hoop better than I can, and I help my neighbor with his aching back as we sit on the stoop of his carriage unit. My son goes as fast as he can on his scooter. My husband shows his juggling skills with the lacrosse balls the girls have been playing with. I can see we are going to need bounce-back in the alley. When I pick up the stick and ball it is almost irresistible to want to throw it. All over is just this vibe of health, connection, vitality, fun, tired-at-the-end of the day feeling. We are all sharing in it.

The storm that has been threatening all day starts to break. As we head up the stairs my husband joyfully narrates the alley's activities, and ends by saying ". . . it's like watching your dream come true."

Go Belvedere!

Monday, May 4, 2009

We're Certified!

We knew our house is well-built, but it is still nice to have these:

A special thanks to Eagle Homes for following through on getting these certifications.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Belvedere Adventures

As I go around here in Cville, people find out I live in Belvedere and then ask, Are you the blogger? So, Yes, I say. Well, you haven't written much lately. No, I don't get to the blog as much as I would like for sure. I run a business and have two small children. I travel with my work. It definitely is a juggling act. But that doesn't mean I don't have loads of blogs swimming around in my head waiting to appear. Here are a few of my adventures:

Everything is Working Out
With four new homes about to be built or in the process of being built, I have this feeling that Belvedere is on the upswing after surviving through the nuclear winter of the new housing market. Workers are everywhere again, buzzing all over the townhomes, finishing them! Yay! Trucks and supplies are running back and forth to the two homes in progress. One of the City Homes has broken ground. And then joy of joys, we learn a family with kids is moving in next door, one is a boy my son's age! I mention this to my son and he says, Don't obsess about it mom.

The other day, the four of us (Bret, myself and our two kids) hopped on our bicycles after dinner and cycled all around Belvedere and Dunlora. As we arrived back in our garage, I lifted up a tennis racket and said, Tennis Anyone? My son yelped with delight. Well, it was late so we didn't end up going down to the tennis court, but the point was we could have. As I lay in bed that night I thought, this is exactly what I wanted: A neighborhood and an active lifestyle. It was just what Belvedere promised, too, and it delivered. I have never in my life lived in a place where I could ride around safely on a bike with my kids the way we do here. I can't believe that I got exactly what I wanted, even if it was just in that moment there.

Nature Adventures Belvedere's forests never fail to offer me nature encounters worth remembering. I savor them.

It is a Saturday. I am just back from a business trip, tired but really wanting to run through the forest even if it is just a little. Bret is working in the yard, and I sit on the steps and watch. Well, I say, I am heading out. It is 6 pm. I had put dinner on the table for the kids. Bret and I would eat later.

On this evening, I head down the sewer line at the far end of the property to the flood plain and turn right along one of the Rivanna Trail lines. As I run a long, I feel better. Then suddenly up ahead I see a huge set of wings lift off the ground and into a tree. It is the biggest Bard owl I have ever seen. It sits in the tree looking down at me with huge dark eyes like a ghost on the limb. I call to him but he does not respond. Instead, he heads over to another tree higher up and stares down at me again. I pause. All around me the toads start up. What is it about 6 pm in the forest in spring? Toad happy hour? The trills are everywhere and deafening, vibrating this corner of the woods. I smile. I live for this.

. . . . .
On this morning, I can't wait to get out for another run through the forest. I want to go down the new trail and out through the Zone to the railroad bridge. I love that trail. It is amazingly hot for early in the morning. As I head down the road/trail to the tall three oaks, a large bird lifts off and into a tree. It is a vulture. It stands on the limb and stretches his wings out. I stand and stretch my arms out, mimicking him. He must have been in the water there, a small stagnant pool in a rut that is now home to many small frogs. I run on. Further down, I scare up a big red fox that had been resting in the woods next to the trail. He is muddy so I figure, he, too, was in the water, this time the creek that runs next to the trail. He runs up the hill a little then stops and watches me. I stop and watch him back. He runs on. I have seen him before, chance encounters on the trail. There are two large foxes here. I have been looking for their den.

As I run, I hear the birds. The wood thrush's flute-like call is a balm and lifts my spirits. I follow the trail along the flood plain and out the brown Rivanna Trail. This small lovely trail takes me through the woods. The forest floor is alive with scurrying beasts, a small flock of sparrows, a few blue-lined skinks. Farther along the trail, the mayapples sprout up and I see that dutchman's breeches are also here like along the trail next the river in River Run. I turn and run back along the railroad and back up the sewer line to the house, very grateful that such a resource is available to me just out my door.

. . . .

It is evening around 6 pm, and raining lightly. I head out the door in my raincoat and stop at the neighbors to see if one of their dogs wants to go with me into the forest. I don't feel like running and I want to go slow. I figure it will give the dog a chance to really sniff and look around. This night, Louie comes with me, a tall dark dog. His companion is left behind whining but my neighbors counsel me to just take one at a time. I head down the Dunlora trail. The light green new leaves against the gray sky and brown earth are lovely, and the forest smells wonderful. Once again, the thrush sings softly in the twilight. I feel grounded and present, lightly happy to be alive in that forest. We walk down the trail, and then back up. As I look at the old trees and the creek bed, I think, this forest begs timelessness. Then, I realize, it is not the forest that begs that. It is within me, this human.

For the forest, I am sure, timelessness is its baseline. The forest doesn't say, let's hurry up and grow. There is no rush. There just . . . . Is. Within me, I yearn for the same timelessness, but I know I have to get home and help Bret give the kids their bath and put them to bed, then there is my own bedtime and tomorrow, the relentless schedule starts again. We don't live in a timeless way. In the nature classes I teach, I weave in wandering on the landscape with the hopes of imprinting some of the timeless forest on the children. For myself, I am thirsty for the timelessness. I also know myself well enough to say I like having stuff to do, too. Here in Belvedere, I can strike a balance.

. . . .

There you go readers! Stay tuned for more adventures!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Recent Sales Report

I've asked Greg Slater of Real Estate III to comment on recent sales activity and to share his thoughts on Belvedere. Greg has been an agent in this area representing builders in several communities for over a decade now. He was a builder representative at Belvedere up until March 31, 2009. He no longer represents either builder at Belvedere. He does represent Union Bank for the one listing leftover from Church Hill Homes.

Currently, there are 5 property owners living on site at Belvedere. There are 10 homes under contract , pending completion. 8 sales have occurred this year. They are as follows:

The sale of the former Church Hill Homes model.
1 detached presale by Eagle Construction.
2 townhome sales by Hauser.
4 detached homes sales by Hauser. (2 of which are the new "city listing" offering)

For some perspective on this, I pulled 2009 sales information on comparable neighborhoods:

Dunlora 5
Still Meadow 1
Forest Lakes 14
Redfields 4
Fontana 3

So on this list, Belvedere is second only to Forest Lakes (1400 homes) which offers a much broader product mix and price range. There are currently 42 homes on the market in Forest Lakes starting at $199,900.

In general, sales are slow but that is to be expected based on the current economic conditions. I've met many, many people who feel Belvedere is a good fit for them if their personal financial situation was different. In my opinion, its only a matter of time.

Both builders are working hard to adjust their offerings to fit the current market conditions and offer value in this market. For buyers, I fully appreciate how hard it is to identify value in these uncertain conditions. However, I find myself looking to the few places where new homes sales are occurring to understand value.

Having worked and sold homes in many new developments over the years, I have been close to how community design and development has evolved. I have been fortunate to work with many buyers and to learn how demand is changing. There is definitely a trend towards buyers wanting more quality of square foot vs quantity. They crave a more energy efficient home with more thoughtful, functional design. There is also a trend towards community. A connection. I have had many conversations with prospective buyers who understand and want this. There is also a trend of buyers who want to live closer to the urban ring. People want shorter commutes.

Belvedere offers all of the above and ultimately, that is what will make it successful. Each time someone purchases a home and someone moves in, the vision of Belvedere is solidified a little more. There is a whole lot more to Belvedere and what it represents as a community, but it is these fundamentals I can't ignore.


Greg Slater
Associate Broker
Real Estate III
813 E Jefferson St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
434-981-6655 Primary
434-977-3033 Office
"licensed to sell real estate in va"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Balloons are Back

What a pleasant sight on a quiet spring morning.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Edible Garden at the White House. . . and this house.

And maybe your house, too? There is a permaculture movement afoot. Even the President of the United States is doing it, with a good garden at the White House. Bret and I watched 60 Minutes the other night when Alice Waters, the First Lady of Slow Food said she had been pressuring presidents for decades to plant a garden for fresh food at the White House. And now Lady Obama is doing just that, and involving local elementary school students. Hzzah!

Our garden is starting up this weekend with lettuces and peas, and we are creating beds for tomotoes, herbs, and berries. There will be additional beds for more vegetables as the time gets right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rivanna Trail Hike in Belvedere


This link will take you to a short slide show about the new Rivanna trail in Belvedere. Thank you, Dan Mahon and Albemarle county for providing this fabulous resource for us!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Answers and Requests

Hello Good People!

How nice to have so many questions about Belvedere. Here are few answers:

  • Bob's answer to the question What Do I Really Want? was that he wanted to work on Belvedere. He wants to complete his vision to the best of his ability. At least that is what I understood. He explained he was selling some of his 65 LLCs and merging others, and creating Stonehaus Residential that will build energy efficient high quality homes. That is what I understood and I could be wrong.
  • The Village Green is slated to be altered. We are still in discussion about how things will unroll on the green, with movies and music and events, but the ampitheatre needs to be lower or not at all in accordance with the plans submitted to the county. We are all waiting for more landscaping, and I saw Bob and his crew out there planning last week. Stay tuned.
And here is a request from me:

  • If you want to be included in meetings and updates, then send me your email address. Identify yourself, don't just post under Anonymous. My email is Or, if you want to be bold, become a member of the Belvedere Neighborhood Group on Facebook.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough

When the going gets tough, the tough get introspective, creative, committed, and constructive. Sometimes, I feel like people are waiting for Belvedere to fail, so people, read on.

With rumors swirling and the economy in a decline, Belvedere builders decided to become more transparent and also, reorganize. Yesterday, Bob Hauser gave a long and passionate talk to Belvedere residents about his state of affairs, and also, Stonehaus unveiled a new line of homes in Belvedere called City Homes. These homes are smaller single-family homes that are Earthcraft, with one model being single story living. All homes have a garage option. The lots are smaller since the homes orginally planned for these sites were duplexes. Square footage ranges from 1200-1800 square feet with 2 and 3 bedrooms. Prices range from $274,000 to $304,000. There is a new construction entity that is behind these homes called Stonehaus Residential that is committed to quality, efficient, small homes. They are only offering 16 of these City Homes. If you are interested in buying of these small homes, you had better contact Stonehaus quickly because they sold 2 homes before they unveiled the new line. Currently, there are 4 other lots that are being considered by buyers. I wish I had extra money. I want one of these homes, too. Contact Lindsay Comment at 434-981-4054 or Jay Kalagher at 434-962-4613.

I also want to mention that Hauser Homes just finished a beautiful new home on the Boulevard and sold three other homes in Phase 1. In addition, Eagle Construction just closed on a new home for which construction will begin soon. So March will be a busy month in Belvedere with 3 - 5 new home construction projects starting. How about that!

I learned a lot yesterday listening to Bob speak about his life and his decisions. Here are few things to say up front:
  • Hauser Homes is not bankrupt. Bob is very solvent, he says, just not very liquid.
  • The credit crunch and financial meltdown very much affected Bob's business. I was not aware of the $500 million run on Wachovia in one day. Bret later told me that it was an electronically triggered run that almost caused a collapse of some of the financial system. They had to close down something to prevent that. Shades of Its a Wonderful Life.
  • The housing sector is calling this past winter the Nuclear Winter. Bob has been in business since the 1970's. He made it clear these last 5 months have been the worst he has seen, and still, Belvedere got tons of traffic. One realtor reported that in the last 4 months, approximately 180 people took the time to register with Belvedere agents to be told about new developments. That does not include the hundreds that did not.
  • The Vision of Belvedere is not negotiable. This vision includes the Earthcraft homes, New Urban design, connection to nature, town center.
  • The City Homes will be built in that one section of Phase One only.
  • There is money in escrow to finish Phase One completely.
In his talk with us, Bob clearly wants to take responsibility and also, do something to help turn things around. He talked candidly about how his business started, grew and is now reorganizing. He would like to retire Hauser Homes and have Stonehaus Residential eventually take over building in Belvedere. Many of the timelines the developers talked about were 18 and 24 months down the road.

It is not often anyone opens up their life and tells you about their. Bob explained that the economic downturn allowed him to pause and ask the question, What do I really want? Quite often we don't ask ourselved this question enough. More often, we don't even question or look at our life in a deep way. We just keep going along until we are forced to make a change or a decision.

One of my teachers, Tony Ten Fingers, once told me a story like this one. He asked one of his friends who had stage IV ovarian cancer what she really wanted. She said she wanted to get married and find true love. The next day he proposed. She accepted. He said, okay, one down, and we are going to have work at true love. This question, what do I really want? has stayed with me since then. Mostly, I have always done what I really wanted and taken the risks that come with that. That is how I learned to follow my dreams but lower my expectations. I always did what I wanted, but things often didn't pan out the way I had dreamed or thought they would. Becoming a pioneer in Belvedere and working hard to make the vision a reality was certainly one of those moments that I have gone for what I really wanted. I say to myself, this is what I am doing for now. I will try my best to make my dreams come true, and because they have in the past, I probably will come close now. If I keep my expectations high, I just might get hurt so I keep my expectations in the middle range. Just now, my life is exceeding my expectations.

Two other things:
  • The Rivanna Trail proposed for this section of land along in river in Belvedere is nearly complete. I ran it the other day and it is really a treasure. I especially enjoyed the section near the railroad tracks.
  • The organic farm is scheduled to go in this spring, and their first crop might be available fall 2009.
These are the updates. Belvedere still keeps growing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Belvedere News

It is not an easy winter in Belvedere. The wind whips across the empty fields. Bret and I scheme about the lots across the street saying we are going to plant wildflowers over there this early spring. I think we are going to try to do that. Sometimes I think, I am going to plant a labyrinth, but that is too ambitious.

There is still activity here for sales of houses. Lots of interest, even in the downturn. The Dunlora trail is awesome, the Belvedere trail is almost complete down to the floodplain where the Organic Garden is going in this spring. That is still happening. There will be some changes to the Village Green. Hauser Homes is about to close on a house on the boulevard and so we will have new neighbors soon! There is a greenway slated for next to the river.

Our symposium on Free Range Neighborhoods has been postponed until the fall. There just weren't enough registrants. I have connected with the neighborhood closest to us over in Dunlora and am happy to discover lots of children. I can't wait until spring when we can go down and hang out with them.

Two beautiful red foxes have denned near our house on Tyree Lane. Our neighbors have seen them, too. They told me they watched them hunt and play from their balcony.

Connexion has put in the fiberoptic. I give that company a thumbs up for the field agents and a big thumbs down for communication with us and the neighbors. The neighbors also say they can't get the local stations. So Connexion, if you're reading this, you can improve your communications (which is interesting, since your business is communications).

We are planning some activities for the spring. I can't wait to work on my garden.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Neurological Underpinnings of Belvedere Part 2

As I have written before, it was the idea that I could help build a community while staying connected to nature that attracted me to Belvedere. Actually, it was good marketing on the part of Stonehaus: Green views, getting children "off the couch" and outside. Very specifically, it was Bob Hauser who told me that he wanted to build a neighborhood where the children would have a childhood like he remembered his was. He explained to me that he had children and was deeply inspired by them. Led by this inspiration, and troubled by what he saw children doing these days, he decided to try and design a neighborhood where children could play outside in nature, unstructured and untroubled by adult concerns. "Yes," I said inside my heart, "I have been working these past seven years to create that with programs for children. Here is a place I could call home."

I have traveled and lectured to parents, communities, teachers, about the benefits of play on nature. Here is a short list. The list grows incredibly now, with advocates in the Child in Nature Network, and the No Child Left Inside Coalition whose chant is "Get 'Em Outside."

  • 200 years ago, most children grew up in areas surrounded by nature.
  • Late 20th century, children’s environments became more urbanized.
  • With the turn of the century, outdoor play boundaries have shrunk, and so has access to nature.
  • Many children live in urban areas where natural areas for play have shrunk; ½ live in urban centers of less than 500,000
  • Decline in recess continues, despite research showing that unstructured play outside promotes learning while releasing energy and stress and minimizing disruptive behaviors.
  • Rise in ADD/ADHD by tracking the amount of medications taken, up 700% since 1990.Approximately 4.7% of children 6–17 years of age have ADHD without LD, (14.5 million children, source CDC)
Research Summary:Some Specific Research:

Robin Moore of the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State University in Raleigh, NC has complete research showing that play in nature:
  • encourages imagination and creativity,
  • fosters language and collaborative skills,
  • reduces or eliminates bullying,
  • stimulates social interaction between children, and
  • children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other
Play and learning in natural settings stimulates all aspects and stages of child development.

Andrea Faber Taylor and Francis of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois completed several studies on the impact of nature on a child’s ability to be
more disciplined, delay gratification, and control impulses. Results showed that contact with nature:

  • increases ability to focus and concentrate, and
  • that views of and contact with nature result in higher scores on tests of concentration and self-discipline.
  • The greener the setting surrounding the child, the better the scores.
  • A recent study completed in 2004 showed that simply taking a walk in nature decreased symptoms of ADHD.
  • Levels of aggression and violence were significantly lower among inner city residents who had some nearby nature outside their apartments.
A Swedish study completed in 2001 showed that play in nature increases motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility; children who play in nature are sick less often even though they went outside in all weather, every day.

Robert Pyle studied children’s play in vacant lots in urban areas. Exposure to natural environments improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning, and observational skills.

Social scientist Nancy Wells’ study on working with nature and inner city children found that nature buffers the impact of life’s stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity; the greater the amount of exposure to nature, the greater the benefits.

Early childhood educators Edith Cobb and Maria Montessori found that nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and “being at one” with the world, and that early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder.

Children’s loss of regular contact with the natural world can result in a future generation not interested in preserving nature and its diversity.

You can see the complete powerpoint of the research and program of children in nature on my wesbite, and also, the best list is on the Children and Nature Network site.

So what does this mean for Belvedere? I am going to work toward offering afterschool programs for area children to come and play. My first program will be a Playwork program from the UK called Playing with the Elements starting Fall 2009. I have lots of ideas of helping children and families connect with nature, and have fun, too. I am currently running a free program for families with very small children at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.

I am also helping to co-sponsor a symposium on designing neighborhoods for children in nature coming to the Charlottesville Center for Design on the downtown mall: Free Range Neighborhoods: Designing Everyday Natural Places to Motivate Children's Outdoor Play.

More on all this later. I have to get away from this screen and outside!