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Building a ‘sense of community’

A.L. building transformed into new household complex

The residents of a recently established household complex are living in a community setting.

It Takes the Village on Plainview Lane features eight 1,200-square-feet, four-bedroom households. Each residence has a kitchen, living room and bathroom.

Residents share monthly meals, and shared spaces include a commercial kitchen, exercise room, meeting room, media room, laundry room, library and offices.

The household complex opened March 1.

It Takes the Village on Plainview Lane Owner Walter Baldus said he hopes the household complex provides a sense of community for residents. — Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Owner Walter Baldus said the building was built as residences for people with disabilities in the 1970s as state hospitals were being closed and people with disabilities were being transitioned to communities across the state.

Baldus, who designed the original building, said he wanted it to somewhat model normal houses but include larger, more accessible bathrooms to serve people with disabilities.

Baldus said the facility is based off the concept of an intentional community, which is a planned residential community designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork.

Full kitchens are included in every household. — Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

“This is kind of a take-off of that, in the sense that once a month, all of the people who are in this building get together and have a common dining experience and kind of share with each other what’s going on or kind of set some of the rules,” he said.

Residents are assigned duties such as mowing the lawn, working on the gazebo on the property and vacuuming.

Baldus said the household complex is the only one of its kind in Albert Lea. To him, the complex provides residents a linkage to each other.

“It’s that sense of community that we lost years and years ago when neighborhoods started to disintegrate,” he said. “People are more transient than they used to.”

Baldus said residents in a typical apartment complex have not formed connections with each other.

“This is a difference in the sense that it’s an attempt to really bring people together,” he said.

Baldus said he wants residents to say their households are “like home. It’s like community. This is where my friends are. This is where my supports are.”

Residents Vanessa Krowiorz and Cassandra Laite said they enjoy the community.

“It’s my first time I’ve been in an apartment, and I love my neighbors,” Krowiorz said. “We’re all together; we eat together. We watch each other’s kids. I love it.”

Krowiorz’s family bought dinner for Laite’s family on Mother’s Day, and Laite’s family bought items for the birthday party of Krowiorz’s son.

“We help each other,” Krowiorz said. “And that’s what it takes. It takes a village to raise a child.” 

Laite said she also agreed with the concept that it takes many people to raise a child.

“I like the thought of going back to that …  everyone work together to set up a parent-run day care for the children that live here, to set up our own library and our own rules for the library,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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