In this final post, I will summarize the responses to the open-ended questions (“essay questions”) that were part of the survey conducted by the architectural firm handling our revitalization process, Lenhardt Rodgers. In part 1 and part 2, I discussed the results of the closed-ended questions (“multiple-choice questions”).

I want to emphasize from the start that (unlike the multiple-choice results reported in my previous blog posts) we can’t learn very much about people’s preferences from this material. The responses summarized here consist of a long list of bullet points, with no indication of which items were broadly popular and which were one person’s opinion. Some items contradict each other. There is much food for thought here about what we might want out of revitalization, but no guidance for directing the planning process.

There were five open-ended questions asked of Kendal and Crosslands residents. The wording was the same, except for the substitution of “Crosslands” for “Kendal” in the first two.

  • What satisfies you the most about living at Kendal?
  • What concerns you the most about living at Kendal?
  • Is there a need for new types of spaces?
  • Is there a parking problem? If yes, where and what times?
  • Is there anything else you believe the Committee should think about in architectural planning for our structures and grounds?

For four of these five questions (all but the “parking” one), the answers were summarized as bullet points and classified in a four-category scheme by the architecture firm, Lenhardt Rodgers. The summarized answers were categorized as being related to “Inspiration”, “Planning”, “Security”, or “Nature”. (The answers to the parking question were not categorized in this way.)

While I have questions about both the summarization and the categories, I am confident that the bullet-point summaries provide a good general idea of the underlying questionnaire responses. Those summaries are the basis for this blog post.

Of necessity, I have left out many specific items that were mentioned, and focused on those that seemed to me most significant. For a more comprehensive view, I encourage you to go back to the architects’ summaries for Kendal and for Crosslands.

Staff, KCC board, and “interested parties” (mostly Cartmel and Conniston residents) were asked different sets of questions from Kendal and Crosslands residents. I have summarized some of those responses at the end of this post.

Given those caveats, here are some observations about the open-ended responses. Unless specifically stated otherwise, all these observations apply to the responses from both Kendal and Crosslands.

General themes. A few major themes arose from the answers to all of the questions. For the most part, they are the same ones that were emphasized in the “closed-ended” questions covered in the previous two posts. They are:

  • Nature and views. The views of nature from our residences, the woods and trails, and the fact that we live in an arboretum came up in multiple contexts. This was the case for both Kendal and Crosslands.
  • Facilitating community and companionship. Many responses related to the need for appropriate facilities to encourage interaction and group activities.
  • Walkways. Walkways were mentioned multiple times. Kendal residents especially like their network of covered walkways.
  • Sustainability and efficiency. This topic was frequently mentioned by Kendal residents (and to a lesser extent by Crosslands residents as well)

Because preferences around these topics were discussed in the last two posts, I won’t revisit them here, and I won’t mention them in discussing the open-ended results. But clearly, they are priorities, and as you read the summaries below, please bear in mind that these themes reoccurred in response to most of the questions.

Q: What satisfies you the most about living at Kendal?

  • “Quaker values” was mentioned several times in response to this question (and, as you will see, in response to other questions as well).
  • “Modest but comfortable”, “cozy” housing. This was a theme for Kendal residents, but not for Crosslands residents.
  • Amenities. Residents mentioned trails, art facilities, exercise facilities, pools, and so on.
  • Safe environment. Topics in this category included 24-hour access to healthcare, assurance of future healthcare, and safety during the pandemic.
  • Gardens. Gardening is clearly an important activity for residents.

Q: What concerns you the most about living at Kendal?

  • Upkeep of buildings and grounds. Residents are concerned that some buildings are showing their age and need repair or refreshing.
  • Loss of Quaker values.
  • Worry over a trend toward “opulence” or “luxury”.
  • Possible overcrowding and long lines, particularly in the context of dining.
  • Issues and procedures related to the pandemic.Will it be safe to gather?
  • Diversity (both racial and economic) is lacking.
  • Will new construction impact views?
  • Overdependence on technology was a concern at Crosslands, but not Kendal.
  • “Car-oriented” campus was a concern at Crosslands but not Kendal.

Q: Is there a need for new types of spaces?

Explanation provided for this question: “Since the Community Center is an extension of your Independent Living experience at Kendal at Longwood, are there any areas that are inadequate, underutilized, or undersized? Is there a need for new types of spaces?”

  • Appearance of Center. Residents on both campuses had opinions on this topic. Both cafes were singled out for improvement. At Kendal, the basement and beauty salon were specifically mentioned as needing work. Similarly, at Crosslands, the library, the artwork, and the furniture were mentioned.
  • Meeting rooms for small gatherings. These are in short supply on both campuses.
  • Auditorium improvements. Seating capacity is the main issue.
  • Improved visitor accommodation (Farmhouse and Ellerslie).
  • Exercise facilities. A basketball hoop and a track were among the ideas. 
  • Storage was mentioned in severalcontexts: for “walking aids” at the dining room, for hobbies and activities, for housekeeping.
  • Continuing pandemic measures may require reconfiguring our indoor spaces.
  • Outdoor improvements requested at Crosslands included outdoor seating and dining, a walkway around the pond and several more. (These were categorized under the “Nature” heading. Oddly, the “Nature” heading is entirely missing from the Kendal summary for this question. Could this be an inadvertent omission?)

Q: Is there a parking problem? If yes, where and what times?

The answers on this question were quite different for the two campuses.

  • At Kendal, the concern was for more handicapped spots and better overflow parking for events at the Center. Parking for scooters and wheelchairs was mentioned. (We know, from the closed-ended responses, that parking is a much lower priority at Kendal than at Crosslands.)
  • At Crosslands, the issues were event and mealtime parking, parking for the pool and gym, and parking for resident care during morning hours. Limited parking is an important issue.
  • Parking in resident spots by staff and suppliers is an issue for both campuses.

Q: Is there anything else you believe the Committee should think about in architectural planning for our structures and grounds?

The responses to this question were wide-ranging, and I can’t do them justice here. I have a selected a few prominent topics, but I encourage you to consult the architects’ summaries to sample the rest. A lot of creative thought went into the responses to this question!

  • Incorporate Quaker values (although one item also mentioned that “Kendal attracts non-Quaker residents as well as Quakers”)
  • No “showy buildings”, not a “country club”, “modest architecture”.
  • Future residents may want larger units. There were various suggestions about what might attract them.
  • Potential alternative uses for the Barn and the Farmhouse.
  • Take pandemic impact into account in designs.
  • Maintain the balance between buildings and views.

KCC Board, Staff, and Interested Parties. In addition to the survey of Kendal and Crosslands residents, a more limited survey was sent to the KCC board, the staff at both campuses, and “interested parties” (mostly Cartmel and Conniston residents). Each of these questionnaires had questions that were tailored to the specific target group. The summaries of the open-ended responses by these groups can be found at the end of documents containing the open-ended responses of the Kendal and Crosslands residents (the same material is at the end of both).

KCC Board responses:

  • Q: What satisfies you the most about Kendal Crosslands Communities? The board mentioned primarily the natural beauty of the site. If the board was asked the corresponding question about “concerns” (as residents were), their answers were not included.
  • Q: If there are parking problems, where and what times? Congestion at meal times and lack of enclosed parking areas were mentioned.
  • Q: Since the development of Kendal Crosslands Communities there have been major changes, including increased construction of communities in competition with Kendal Crosslands Communities, global climate change, and most recently the COVID 19 pandemic. What impact should these changes have on our planning? Board members mentioned the need to consider competitiveness with other retirement options, flexible/nimble planning, energy saving, and social distancing.
  • Q: Is there anything else you believe the Committee should think about in architectural planning for our structures and grounds? Answers included flexibility in planning, maintaining and enhancing natural beauty, and the challenge of remaining a community while avoiding transmission of virus.

Staff responses (from both campuses combined):

  • Q: What changes in the resident apartments and cottages could be made to make your department work more efficiently? Staff members mentioned maintenance-free exteriors, employee restrooms, and groups of apartments on a central HVAC system (for less maintenance).  But staff members did not constrain themselves to answers about “departmental efficiency”. Most answers had to do with how residences could be improved for the residents. Ideas included enlarged apartments, more appliance options, better technology (including WiFi) in residential units, and heated/cooled three-season rooms. And here’s one we could all support (if we could figure out how to do it): consecutively renumber all units.
  • Q: If there are parking problems, where and what times? Kendal parking issues centered on “tight” parking lots and wait times for covered parking. Crosslands has serious parking problems (particularly 11-4 and 4:30-6). There are conflicts between the needs of staff, residents, and suppliers; and serious problems during events when outsiders come, like memorial services or on election days when Crosslands is a polling place. Could there be underground parking at Crosslands? The maintenance center has parking problems at times.
  • Q: Is there anything else you believe the Committee should think about in architectural planning for our structures and grounds? Need to “keep up with the competition”, need better signage, more storage space, need more amenities for the next generation, dining venues could be multi-purpose, supplies/stockroom needed for Maintenance, staff offices, electrical outlets in carports. Need better options for lighting, bathroom and kitchen features, etc., for aging in place. More ideas: “Greywater” systems for reduced water use, “our cottages look like barracks on a base.”

Interested Party responses (mostly from Cartmel and Conniston residents):

  • Q: What reservations do you have about coming to live at Kendal Crosslands Communities? Concerns include upkeep of buildings, small size of apartments (and long waits for larger units), dense nature of layout, necessity of going outside to get meals, expense of life care coverage, relinquishing independence. One comment: “Housing at Cartmel is more desirable than at either life care community.”
  • Q: Is there anything else you believe the Committee should think about in architectural planning for our structures and grounds? Items mentioned include: suggestions for improved appearance of units, modular units (so that a large unit could be converted to two small ones), use same layout as Cartmel or Coniston, basements and garages, backup generators for Cartmel and Conniston, indoor access to dining room, more food options, a bar, hide electrical transformers, pedestrian and scooter connections between Cartmel and the two main campuses (perhaps an elevated crosswalk over Route 926 and a paved walkway along the Kendal-Crosslands maintenance road), suggestions for plantings, more natural light, preserve views.

Concluding thoughts. As you can see from all the open-ended responses, this material is a starting point for discussions, not yet the basis for plans. I am sure many of these points will be raised in the “charrettes” that the architectural team will be conducting.

Although there is a rich trove of information in these summary documents, we don’t really know in detail what people wrote in their open-ended responses. All we have is a bullet-point summary. That’s a shame, and I would prefer to know more.

For example, in my case, I wrote three paragraphs about the need for sustainability and the options for achieving it. As far as I can tell, that material ended up being summarized in the form of two bullet points:

  • Make renovated and replaced cottages more energy efficient
  • Add solar panels

Those two bullets are probably as much as most people would want to know about what I wrote, but there are some who would want to at least skim the whole thing.

I know many of you put a lot of thought into your answers, and it can’t all be expressed in a few bullet points. I look forward to the day when I can read through the full text of what you wrote.