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Christians create a different retirement plan

It can be scary as you get older to consider the prospects of maintaining a house and property that’s too much for you to handle, to worry about being a burden on your children (or having them dictate what you do) or be concerned about the prospect of an “old folks home.” A group of people in the Roanoke area decided to create a new reality for aging with grace.


Paul Wyar, who was married at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington 35 years ago and is a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Salem, is spearheading this initiative.


A retired engineer, Wyar was determined to create a plan for his golden years that allowed him to be independent for as long as possible. He stumbled onto the co-housing concept and created a model designed for a faith-based community populated by those age 55 and over in SpiritServ. Everyone who joins this community will have a say in how it develops from both a plant and culture standpoint.


Co-housing isn’t a new concept, but it’s certainly not mainstream. It involves a community development where residents own their homes and benefit from common areas. Shared space includes a house for group meals and events, lodging for guests and grounds. Residents have yards they can design with gardens or opt to have them maintained by providers handling community acreage. People in co-housing collaborate on decisions that affect all within the community and care more deeply about their neighbors than typical residential locales. 


Wyar found the concept ideal for an older compassionate residential community focused on internal and external giving. “There is a great deal of joy and peace in giving and fellowship,” Wyar states. The added security of neighbor familiarity and a loving environment has made it an attractive alternative for retirees.


SpiritServ was formed three years ago. It took a while to gain traction. Ten committed residents were necessary to proceed with a land purchase. Recently, the group made an offer to the City of Roanoke for 5.58 acres at the old Countryside Golf Course. Monthly potluck dinners and trips to other co-housing communities are fostering discussions on the final design of SpiritServ.


“One thing I didn’t anticipate is the amount of work in planning all this,” Wyar said. He’s coordinated site plans and associated vendors, retained an attorney for the project, factored pricing for the community and each home plus sourced half a dozen model home selections.


“Our group is excited to be moving forward and fortunately, most of the design and pricing infrastructure work has already been done with vendors ready to move, so once the land is secured, we’ll proceed quickly,” he said. Each resident will select the home they want, but SpiritServ will take care of all that’s necessary to prepare the lot and the building to be move-in ready.      


The development is designed to provide affordable housing with energy efficient solutions including solar. The anticipated culture will foster an engaging, giving community for those seeking a different kind of retirement living experience. Those joining the community plan to remain more active, independent and community focused as they age with grace. 


Projected home costs at SpiritServ are from $98,000 to $250,000, depending on the model and features selected. This includes the home and the lot as well as all site preparation and utility hook ups. Home sizes range from 546 square feet for a 1 bedroom, 1 bath to 1,203 square feet for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath.


Those relocating to the SpiritServ community can choose from a variety of models, including duplex, triplex and single family detached homes. After a considerable amount of research, Wyar decided on six different pre-manufactured homes to recommend for those moving to the community to keep costs down and ensure lots are prepared properly for delivery. Those who wish can also choose to construct a custom home, but projected costs do not reflect this option. All current members to date have chosen one of the recommended solutions.  


Each pre-manufactured model allows buyers to customize fixtures and interior design features. Floor plans offer a variety of options in layout and number of rooms including a 1 bedroom, 1 bath duplex and a number of 2 bedroom, 2 bath and 3 bedroom, 2 bath choices.  


Although the current focus is to accommodate the intended initial 30-home SpiritServ community, there is currently adjacent land available for purchase if the members decided they want to expand the co-housing footprint.


All units also include access to the 2,500-square-foot common house with many activity rooms and two guest bedrooms.


Levin is a freelance writer from Roanoke.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017