Lenhardt Rodgers, the architectural firm leading our revitalization process, has provided a video covering much of the Zoom-based focus group session of November 11. The link to the video is available on the Revitalization page of the website. For your convenience, it is also here.

This blog post is my summary of that session. It is largely based on reviewing the video, but it also includes some of my recollections about aspects that are not in the video. The best way to recapture the sessions that day is to watch the video (and I encourage you to do that). However, if you are like me, having something written that you can read and refer to (and perhaps print out) is a better and more efficient memory aid than going back to re-watch a video multiple times. It is in that spirit that I offer this summary.

Setting the stage. After introductions, but before the breakout sessions, Joyce Lenhardt and her team went through a slide presentation to set the context. They explained their five “guiding principles” for revitalization. These were based on the questionnaires that residents filled out, observations that the revitalization team made based on visits to our campuses, and the team’s own previous work experience.

The guiding principles they listed (which appled to both Kendal and Crosslands) were:

  • Existing culture to be valued; but acknowledge the need for change to accommodate the future
  • Prioritize visual and physical connections to nature
  • Create sustainable buildings and campus
  • Answer the need for building and campus support and preservation
  • Respond to the context of the built environment

The architectural team’s discussions had also resulted in a set of initial recommendations, which they presented next. Some pertained to both campuses, and some were specific to one campus or the other.

The recommendations of the architectural team that pertained to both campuses were:

  • New opportunities for active recreation and resident engagement
  • Increased and improved wayfinding
  • Flexible resident designs for customization and ease of future modifications
  • Provide the right type of parking at the right place and/or investigate alternate transportation methods
  • Determine if there are options for additional and/or improved covered parking
  • Discuss potential for three-season rooms
  • Discuss potential improvements to existing buildings

The specific recommendations for the Kendal campus were:

  • Provide handrails and lighting on walkways
  • Provide higher roof and more light at covered walkways
  • Consider improving existing courtyards
  • Review entrance drive and entry
  • Consider options at putting green area
  • Review parking
  • More common space at future residences
  • Consider solutions to make smaller cottages more marketable and energy efficient
  • Consider sustainability programs for existing buildings
  • Respect the one-story character of the campus
  • Consider a new building type to bridge the new and existing
  • Potentially connect duplexes [the “new cottages”] to Center
  • Consider future removal of some existing buildings to ease density and allow access for maintenance and drainage and better covered walkway connections
  • Consider options for some interior connections to the Center
  • Be mindful of the affect of multi-story buildings
  • Existing residence improvements (mailboxes, thresholds, soundproofing)

The Kendal resident focus groups. After each of these points was given a brief explanation, Joyce Lenhardt explained how the focus groups were to work. There would be two successive focus-group sessions. In the first session, residents would discuss four specific questions that Lenhardt Rodgers had selected because they were topics that the team felt needed more resident feedback. In the second session, residents would come up with three goals that, if achieved, would represent successful revitalization.

For each of the two sessions, residents were randomly assigned to one of 12 focus groups, each of which had a moderator and each of which had its own Zoom “breakout” room. After each session, the moderators summarized for the full Zoom audience the discussion in their particular focus group.

The video does not show any of the breakout-room focus groups. It does include the moderators’ reports, but only for the second session. The video of the first-session moderator’s reports was lost due to an unfortunate Zoom glitch.

The first focus group session. In the first session, residents responded to four specific questions posed by the revitalization team. They were:

  • Do you support having a component of Independent Living with an indoor connection to the Center? Why or why not?
  • Please provide advice about common spaces.
    • What types of indoor spaces would make your life better?
    • What outdoor amenities would be consider to improve resident life at Kendal?
  • What strategies might help to better incorporate the duplexes into the campus?
  • How could parking problems be solved, other than adding more parking spaces at the center?

Unfortunately, the video with the summaries of responses to these questions did not survive. I am told that the revitalization team will do its best to summarize them, based on notes taken at the time and, in some cases, videos of individual focus groups. I look forward to that summary. I wish I had made better notes myself.

Here are some of my recollections.

  • Indoor connection to the Center. In my own focus group, there wasn’t much support for the “indoor but independent” option. It was felt that having to go outside to get to the Center was actually a good feature of living here. But in some groups it was noted that “indoor but independent” could actually be a useful “fourth option”. Some people might want to move there from the independent living cottages if their mobility limitations made it hard to get to the Center, but they didn’t need the daily assistance provided by Cumberland.
  • Common spaces. Various groups came up with a variety of ideas for common spaces. Outdoor gathering spaces (small and large, open and sheltered) were popular. Indoors, there is a shortage of space for small and medium-sized meetings. There were many other ideas.
  • Integration of the duplexes. There didn’t seem to be any easy answers for better integration of the duplexes (“new cottages”) into the rest of the campus. Having covered walkways (so that walking to the Center would be practical even in bad weather) was one idea.
  • Parking. For most groups, parking was not thought to be a problem except during events that brought in outsiders (marketing events, funerals, etc.). In those cases, perhaps the little-used lot 3A (at the front of the campus) could be utilized, along with a shuttle service.

The second focus group session. In the second session, focus groups were asked to come up with three goals that, if achieved, would represent successful revitalization. In the video (starting around the 25-minute mark) you can hear the reports of each of the focus group moderators.

I have tried to summarize what they reported below. In so doing, I put the goals that each focus group drafted into various categories. Obviously, that was a subjective process. You wouldn’t necessarily pick the same categories, and you wouldn’t necessarily assign a given goal to the same category as I did. But as a starting point, I offer my classification, and I encourage you to watch the video if you want to form an opinion of your own.

Two themes topped the list of goals most mentioned by the Kendal focus groups. One was “resident diversity”, and the other was “sustainability and nature”. They were followed by “sense of community” and “support for social interaction”.

  • Diversity. Nine of the 12 focus groups listed being open to diverse residents as a goal. Some of the groups mentioned affordability as an issue in diversity; others mentioned specific categories of diversity (such as ethnic, economic, social diversity). Two specifically mentioned a mix of different-size housing units.
  • Sustainability and nature. The other goal mentioned by nine of the 12 groups involved the natural world and/or sustainability. Some addressed our natural surroundings, such as one calling for “restoration of nature”. Most, though, focused on sustainability, including five groups that specifically called for reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Sense of community. Four of the groups came up with goals that mentioned maintaining our sense of community and who Kendal is. These goals ranged from “maintaining the sense of a small village” to “maintaining compatibility with existing architecture” to “Kendal must still feel like Kendal”. The general sense was that there are elements of Kendal that need to be preserved, regardless of what else is changed.
  • Social interaction. Similarly, four of the groups had goals around social interaction.  Examples included “designed to support and encourage relationships among residents” and “ensure people are connected, inspired, and engaged”.

The rest of the Kendal groups’ goals. Other unique and diverse themes appeared in goals drafted by various focus groups. These included:

  • Maintaining Quaker values
  • Simplicity
  • Better utilization of existing spaces (the Barn was mentioned specifically)
  • Safe and secure environment
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Reconsideration of the fee for moving to a smaller unit
  • Supporting an active lifestyle while recognizing mobility issues
  • Honor and respect for the individual

How did Kendal’s focus groups compare with those at Crosslands? Crosslands went through essentially the same process as we did, a week before us. There is also a video available of their event (and theirs does include the reporting on their specific questions, which were the same as ours, but with the “duplexes” question omitted). You can view their video here.

At Crosslands, participation was a little lower (about 70 residents, vs about 90 at Kendal). Because their campus is so spread out, there was a lot of discussion of transportation and parking, which weren’t really issues at Kendal.

There was also more discussion of spaces for socialization. That’s more of an issue for a dispersed campus where constant encounters in the Center are not a given, and where there are apartment-style buildings with no common rooms.

Like Kendal, the majority of Crosslands focus groups (7 of 9 groups) drafted goals concerning nature and sustainability. Unlike Kendal (where diversity was also a goal for most focus groups) only 2 of 9 Crosslands groups came up with diversity-related goals. Community and opportunities for socialization were prominent goals, just as they were at Kendal. And there were numerous other unique goals mentioned by only a single group.

Personally, I found the focus groups to be a valuable exercise, and the ideas coming out of them will provide important guidance as the revitalization process gets down to specifics.