Even with its unusual challenges–namely, building a part-rental, part-for-sale housing development for both seniors and foster children on 47 acres of wetlands–Pam Goodman, president of Boston-based Beacon Communities Development, just couldn't say no.
She knew Beacon could help the Treehouse Foundation realize its $16 million dream of an intergenerational mixed-income community in Easthampton, Mass., for families adopting foster children and for senior citizens. The idea behind the project? That by bringing together two groups that are often marginalized, both groups would thrive in their new environment and find mutual support as they build their lives in their new neighborhood.
"It felt like a really important project that needed to get done," Goodman says. "Given our expertise in complex permitting, it was intriguing to us. We knew it was a worthwhile project."
Four years later, construction is nearly complete on Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow. The state is lining up occupants for 60 living units, which include one-bedroom apartments for seniors and three- to five-bedroom homes for families with foster or adopted children.
But it wasn't easy. Goodman and her team juggled private and public funding sources with the challenges of environmental permitting. They also worked with neighbors, who wanted the project to fit in. To keep that promise, Goodman turned to Cambridge, Mass.-based architect Prellwitz/Chilinski Associates.
David Chilinski, the firm's president, says he chose a farmhouse style common in New England architecture so the project would blend into the neighborhood, allowing the foster children to better assimilate.
"This by its nature is immersing foster and adoptive families into a normal setting," Chilinski says. "How could it be any less normal than to find a collection of arguably New England rural-style homes along a neighborhood street?"