Building homes, spiritual future at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian

TC Palm, Florida/April 13, 2007
By Janet Begley

Sebastian — For the 19 new landowners on Roseland Road, their lot came with the usual conveniences: water and sewer pipes, telephone and electric lines and even cable television cables.

But they also got something that most property owners never expect: a tiny bit of a spiritual oasis known as the Kashi Ashram.

This interfaith spiritual community is based on kindness, compassion and giving, something that comes along with the 32 residential lots that Kashi has subdivided during Phase 1 of its building process. To date, 19 of the lots have been purchased; eight are still available; and the remaining five will be kept by the Kashi organization for future use.

Each lot costs $185,000 to $350,000 based on size and location, with properties closest to the river costing the most, Kashi officials said.

In addition to the private residential development in Phase 1, Phase 2 calls for the construction of 40 units of affordable housing for senior citizens in Indian River County.

This development, which is called "By the River," includes four homes that each will house 10 senior citizens and one Kashi staff member. The project is partially funded by Indian River County and the Department of Elder Affairs for the State of Florida, which is using the development as a demonstration pro- ject for senior citizen housing throughout the state.

Of the $7 million dollar project, the State of Florida has contributed $3 million and Indian River County has contributed $1.2 million. The rest will be paid through grants, foundations, trusts and private donations, Kashi officials said. To date, they have raised about 80 percent of the funds they need.

By the River will be located in what Kashi is calling Pod K. Each home will have its own kitchen and there will be community meals, with residents taking a turn assisting with meal preparation.

The homes will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will be managed through a "green house model," where each staff member provides many different services. Residents will be encouraged to start gardens outside the homes and to be environmentally conscious in their day-to-day living.

Kashi spokeswoman Sita Gange said having affordable housing for seniors is something Kashi spiritual teacher Ma Jaya has wanted for many years.

"It's been a dream of Ma's for a very long time," said Gange. "The seeds of 'By the River' really originated with the beginning of Kashi itself and Ma's dreams are finally coming to fruition."

Babaram Mitchell serves as associate director for land development and he said that while the $7 million project has been revised many times over the past decade, the core principles have not.

"Experience really guides your footsteps," said Mitchell. "As you develop the property, you see many variations and elements that need to be worked into the project and we've gone to incredible lengths to preserve the integrity of the property."

The Kashi property is an 80-acre tract of which 30 acres is protected wetlands, according to Mitchell. Developers have incorporated wetland pockets into their design throughout the property, giving the property a lush, dense appearance of a wild Florida landscape.

"The environmental consultants have told us that we've done a great job in protecting the surviving wetlands," said Mitchell. "It's our hope that the area will become a great spot for native Florida wildlife and birds."

In addition to the senior citizen housing, future plans for Kashi include a school, a wellness and retreat center, an expanded yoga school and more individual residential lots that will become available over the next five to 10 years.

Phase 1 construction is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, while the Phase 2 start date is in the hands of the Sebastian Building Department.

"The applications are all in and they have already come back for the first technical review," said Mitchell. "We've replied to all of the questions and we're hoping to receive permits to begin construction during the later part of this year. Ideally, we would like to have the senior citizen facility open by July 1 of next year."

But no matter what the timetable, the senior citizen housing already has a waiting list, something that Gange points out demonstrates the need for alternatives to nursing homes.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for people to come and live in a sacred home," said Gange. "It's not just about looking after the elderly; it's about providing a certain type of lifestyle of kindness and compassion."

The Kashi Ashram will host its 2007 Spring Fundraiser on June 2 to help raise money for the new "By the River" senior housing development slated for completion next year. The celebration, which also will be in honor of Ma Jaya's 67th birthday, will take place June 2 at the ashram, 11155 Roseland Road. For more information, call (800) 226-1008, ext. 110.

Fast facts

  • The Kashi Ashram is currently in the process of developing its land through the sale of residential lots and the building of a Senior Living Community called "By the River."
  • Residential lots are available to the public. There is no requirement to belong to Kashi in order to purchase a homesite and the Senior Living Community will be open to all residents of Indian River County. The 80-acre site is open to the public each day.
  • Kashi is an "intentional community," which is described as a place where people live together around a shared common purpose; in this case, the service of humanity. Kashi ashrams are also located in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, with several small centers and thousands of associated individuals around the world.

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