Solar powered "pocket" communities in Portland OR

Last January (!) Sy and I visited our friend Eli Spevak at Cully Grove, a "multi-generational garden community" he and his wife Noel developed in Cully, a neighborhood in far Northeast Portland. Then, last week (late June) we visited a variation on that theme, Ankeny Row - a "new net zero pocket community" that Dick Benner and his wife Lavinia played a key role in developing in inner Southeast Portland. Finally I had a topic for my next blog post. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I'm not going to offer too many details—you can follow the links to each project's website—for that. Here I'd just like to share some images and impressions of these two inspiring experiments in creating ecological urban communities right here in good old Portland.  

The picture above shows the entry gate to Cully Grove. The 16 homes - mainly semi-attached  - are sited around a common yard (seen below.) Every house has a small private entry patio/porch and/or yard. And each has its own subtle color scheme. Otherwise the style is what I call "neo-farmhouse."

We visited on a mild January morning and the mist was just burning off, giving these photos a kind of romantic look. But it did feel magical to be in this green enclave. Residents—who first started living there in August 2013—each get a plot in the garden (seen below). 

Cully Grove is quite an idyllic car-free place—truly a garden community. But you do need a car to live there. Cars are parked on one edge of the site, with little wagons available for residents to cart stuff to their homes (seen below).

That's Eli in vest with red shirt (above) giving a group of us a tour. There's an entry gateway, but not sure if that makes Cully Grove a gated community. A poetry box (see below -- this is Portland after all) adds to the welcoming presence of this enclave within the neighborhood.

Ankeny Row (below) features six craftsmen-style townhouse arranged around a shared garden and courtyard. There is also a shared common building, with an apartment above. Designed and built by Green Hammer, it was the first multi-family passive solar development in the region. 

These homes were built utilizing a combination of super-insulated and airtight construction, heat-recovery ventilation and passive solar heating. They feature high performance materials and equipment, often available only in Europe, where passive solar building technology is still more advanced than in the US. The picture below, taken during the first summer of occupancy, shows how the design maximized the use of the site. (The natural wood sided buildings beyond are an adjacent but unrelated condo development.) This left no room for car-parking (there is a bike storage shed), but this was not considered a problem because of proximity to stores, restaurants, parks and public transit. 

Above and below: two entry details. Each home has a ground level patio and a roof terrace. A few homeowners have the master bedroom on the first floor to be able to age in place.  The group of owners self-financed the project, oversaw the design, and could customize the base unit.

Dick Benner (left) showing Sy (right) and me (taking the picture) the living/dining area of his bright and airy townhome. On this blistering hot day it was cool and comfortable indoors.  And thanks to the thick walls and windows, it's very quiet even though it's just one block from busy Burnside Street. The pictures below show some of the existing multi-family housing in the neighborhood, which is undergoing a rapid transition. Hopefully more of the future will look like Ankeny Row!