Socially conscious, energy efficient community to be built in Chester County

TGE View from Common House.jpg

A view from the common house, where members will share things like meals and childcare.. | Photo from Sandy WigginsFour years ago a diverse group of people found common ground in their quest for a healthier, more eco-friendly and socially responsible way of living. Together the group’s members, who include teachers, a U.S. Army contractor, a nurse, a geochemist and the president of Dansko, Inc., planned out what they envisioned as an ideal community. Now, with guidance from Aye Partners, LLC and Re:Vision Architecture, the group is turning their plan into a reality.

Three Groves Ecovillage is designed with a focus on green space and communal living. It joins a group of planned communities that already exist, such as Dancing Rabbit in Missouri, Earthaven in Asheville, N.C., and EcoVillage in Ithaca, N.Y. The 37 LEED Platinum certified homes in the village will have net zero energy outputs; outfitted with solar and thermal cells, they’ll ultimately generate sellable, renewable energy.  

But before Three Groves could begin the design process, they had the challenge of finding a suitable location. After a long search, they chose an area in Chester County just outside West Grove, on 7.5 acres of land that was once part of a farm. However, when the group approached the town of West Grove with their proposal, they were met with skepticism. Residents in the area were nervous about the plan and the “hippie commune” connotations of communal living. “But we have done a lot of outreach and educating in the town,” says Sandy Wiggins, a principal at Aye and chief developer on the project. “Nobody is in opposition at this point.” The group even succeeded in changing the town’s zoning codes to allow for co-housing.

Upper_v002_LowRes_CR.jpg

Three Groves will have 37 LEED Platinum certified homes. | Rendering from Sandy WigginsNow in the final stages of land development and a groundbreaking set for late spring, Three Groves is well on its way to opening its doors to families. The homes in the village will cost about $400,000 and include all common amenities. The village is a 10-minute walk from downtown West Grove, and will be an anti-suburbia, boasting green spaces in place of streets (harkening back to the “village green”), a permaculture landscape of medicinal and edible plants, a woodshop, an orchard and most importantly, a common house, where members will share everything from meals and laundry, to gym equipment and childcare.

Ten of the homes have already been sold, and the village has a listserv of more than 1,500 interested participants. Places like Three Groves are satisfying a “broad hunger for community that many people don’t know how to articulate that they have.” says Wiggins. “[The communities] are putting new items on the menu of living choices.”

For more about Three Groves, visit threegrovesecovillage.org

COURTNEY SEXTON recently completed her graduate degree in nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She's a "Jersey girl" living in Philadelphia, but is just as likely to be found anywhere else on the East Coast.