All about life at the grow community in Bainbridge Washington and the surrounding community.

What’s it like to live at Grow Community?

Our bountiful neighborhood gardens get all the press, but there’s still plenty going on during these chilly indoor months.

YULE FEST: Over the holidays one Grow resident hosted a Weihnacht Evening, a German-themed Christmas get-together with tasty hot mulled wine (and NA cider, for those who don’t imbibe), homemade cookies and spicy bread.


FETE ’15: Across the way, residents of the new Cooper building threw a neighborhood-wide New Year’s Eve party, a get-acquainted social to introduce Grow’s most recent residents.

BARGAINS & BINS: Our eco-conscious ethos served us well through the holidays, as residents made sure unneeded items found their way to the nearby Bargain Boutique thrift store, and leftover packaging wound up in the appropriate recycling bin.

STAYING SAFE: Grow’s Emergency Preparedness Training got underway with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, with the goal of “Building and Strengthening Disaster Readiness Among Neighbors.” Emphasis was on “mapping” the neighborhood to know our neighborhood resources and identify residents who might be vulnerable in an emergency. Grow is all about being a self-sustaining community.

PEDALS READY: The new bike barn was finished – and promptly filled up with two-wheeled wonders. One resident donated a small children’s bike community use, for any young visitors who want to get to know Grow by pedaling around the green.

GETTING ON BOARD: For strategically minded gamers, a new neighborhood Chess Group is forming.

Oh — and the 2015 Garden Committee is now looking for new members to plan for the upcoming planting season. You didn’t think we could get through a whole post without mentioning the gardens, did you?

Grow Community’s first phase, the Village, is at full occupancy, so we’re making more room just for … you. Find out what our next two neighborhoods, the Grove and the Park, have to offer by visiting our sales office at 180 Olympic Drive in Winslow, just up the way from the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.

Learn more about the Grove on our website here and pay us a visit! We’d like you as a neighbor too.


Your closest neighbor at Grow Community? The environment. Healthy, sustainable living has never been more convenient.

Grow puts you close to your community – and closer still to the great outdoors. Residents of the Grove enjoy the quiet company of woodland trees and an orchard right outside their doors; homes in the Park flank the sprawling central green that gives the neighborhood its name.

Altogether, sixty percent of these neighborhoods are dedicated to peaceful and natural open spaces. Parking is underground, reducing impervious surfaces and putting cars out of sight (where they belong).

Not that you’ll really need a car. We’ve got bikes you can borrow, too.


Summer’s glow warms us still

Even as we slip into a lovely high autumn, we can still take a fond look back to Grow Community’s summer garden party.

Residents of the Village celebrated the rich greenery and edible bounty found throughout the neighborhood with a festive and tasty afternoon get-together.

Flowers in glorious bloom. Vegetables ripe and ready. And neighbors who give the Northwest’s greenest community its amity and spirit. Now that was a day worth celebrating.

We’re already looking ahead to next summer!

Community spirit bring a bumper harvest at Grow Community

Posted to BioRegional Blog
September 26, 2014

Grow resident Ron Kaplan shares how self-sufficiency and community spirit have come together for a bumper harvest at Grow Community, as edibles sprout up in time for Local & Sustainable Food month.


Edibles in the new Bainbridge Island neighborhood are sprouting up in time for Local and Sustainable Food month, even amongst the native landscaping. On one footpath, tomatoes grow side by side with fronded ferns. “Only in the Northwest, huh?” says Ron Kaplan, a resident of the uber-green development now taking shape a short ferry ride across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. Grow Community’s first neighborhood – dubbed the Village, one of three phases in a planned 8-acre project – was designed to reflect and promote sustainability at every turn. Rooftop solar provides much of the power for each home, while the residents share bicycles to reach merchants and services in nearby Winslow town center.

The One Planet Living principles so foundational to the project encourage the sharing of locally grown, organic food. So the signature stroke for both self-sufficiency and a communitarian spirit may be the neighborhood P-patch gardens that nestle amongst the close-knit, architecturally arresting homes. Autumn finds the first three designated gardens a veritable cornucopia overflowing with onions, pumpkins, spinach, peas, eggplant, kale, chard, exotic herbs and other delectables. Grapes and other vine fruits hang from trellises in the wings.

The neighborhood organized a community potluck in late August to celebrate the bounty — and the shared endeavor it represents. “There was a lot of good food, all based on vegetables from the gardens,” Kaplan says. “And it was another excuse for people to get together.” The gardeners are still finding a certain equilibrium between their own tastes and the collective palate. The recent harvest produced a surfeit of beans and squash, says Kaplan, confessing his own complicity in a bumper crop of fiery hot peppers. But any excess just gets carted up the street to Helpline House, the local food bank.

“It wasn’t the Soviet Union model of centralized planning,” Kaplan says. “One of the lessons is, next year there might be more coordination about what’s planted.” More raised beds are now going in next to a just-completed apartment building at the project’s north end, and new residents there will assume their own stewardship of the soil or fall into other neighborhood roles. At Grow Community, Kaplan says, everyone chips in according to their interests and abilities, but the harvest is open to all. “People contribute to the community in different ways,” he says. “I’m putting my time into the gardens, others are putting their time into something else. But they should all be able to harvest – so they do.”

Building for Generations

The neighborhoods at Grow have intergenerational living at their heart – because a true community should be “as welcoming to a 73-year-old as it is to a 3-year-old.”

In our new neighborhoods, the Grove and the Park, sixty percent of the homes offer single-level living with elevator access to front entries, and the community spaces invite interaction and sharing between generations year-round.

And accessibility extends beyond the neighborhood. You’re just 5 minutes from downtown amenities like shops, restaurants and theaters – even ice cream.

If you haven’t visited yet, come find out more about intergenerational living at Grow Community at our sales office, 180 Olympic Drive SE, right next to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. The office is open noon to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Or see


Grow Community Tree Honoring Ceremony

We came together on one of the cooler nights we had seen in a while, a Wednesday. It was calm and comfortable. The type of quiet summer evening you spend walking/reflecting.

So we did. Five of us met at the Welcome Garden in the Village at Grow Community Bainbridge, and set out toward the next phase of Grow, the Grove and the Park. The purpose: to honor the trees that would give way to what was to come.

A light canvas drum was tapped to our slow pace as we skirted the boundary between new and old. We considered the future as each of us glanced from our beautifully prepared program to the soft sway of the tree branches.

The ceremony moved through Japanese prayers for honor, to short poems, to telling short stories of memories filled with trees. We were called to acknowledge that as trees are biologically connected and change with their seasons, they are an example of community and how we can live more healthy lives by being better connected to each other.

Each tree serves a purpose. At Grow, we hold a delicate balance between sculpting a site so anyone can be comfortable moving within it, to creating appropriate density, to allowing for solar production.

As we begin to remove trees for our future development we want to take a moment to give thanks for all they have been, what they will be, and how they have provided for all of us.

To help reduce our impact we are working with a local woodshop to salvage trees for purposeful reuse. We will be working with our site contractor to see that portions of trees and their base (root wad) can be used on future projects for salmon habitat and stream bank restoration. We will use what is left to provide firewood for our workers and mulch to protect our site from erosion and sediment discharge.

While it is always hard to see the taking of trees, we challenge others, as we have, to consider ways in which the impact of development can be reduced by pursuing creative reuse.

As we neared the completion of our ceremony we asked each other to share the story of an experience with a tree. It made me consider what memories will be created with all the new trees to come at Grow.

If you would, share your story/memory of a tree and help us honor those that make way for the new at Grow. My memory is of a scraggly birch in Alaska that was just wide enough to keep me from being charged by a moose. We honor all you provide.

By Greg Lotakis, Grow Team

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Very nicely, thanks! And it’s only going to get better. The shared gardens at Grow Community promise a bounty for the table and a close-knit neighborhood to share its goodness.

Community gardens and “edible landscaping” — everything from blueberries to tree fruits, with tasty vegetables on the vine — are a key feature at Grow, and a big part of our “One Planet Living” ethos. We want to honor the land by fostering and enjoying its wholesome yield.

Now as we approach the first harvest season of our completed Village neighborhood, our gardens are really coming into their own. Residents in our new homeowners association (whose ranks include a few master gardeners, wouldn’t you know) have the happy task of divvying up the delicious fare. You gotta love it when a new sign goes up in your neighborhood, and it says, “Pick Me.”

We’re also talking to Friends of the Farms, the local non-profit that manages and promotes Bainbridge Island’s public agricultural land. We’re discussing how that group may be able to manage our orchards and gardens for an even greater yield, creating an urban farm that produces sustainable, locally grown food in volume and forges stronger community connections.

And this is just in the Village in Phase 1. With Grow Community’s next neighborhood, the Grove, which has just broken ground, and the Park neighborhood to follow, our green development will get even greener (if that’s possible). Sixty percent of the new neighborhoods will be devoted to open space including more bountiful trees and gardens.

We call our community “Grow” for a reason.


Historic Honoring Ceremony – Thursday, March 20th

On Thursday (March 20th) at 12.30pm a local Bainbridge community group will be joining the Grow team to honor those that lived or grew up along Government Way (John Adams) on what is now the Grow Community property.  The ceremony will be held on the current basketball court (behind house 370) on John Adams and then move to the American Legion Hall.

The ceremony will last 30 to 45 minutes and include short stories from each of the following:
Grow Family – Jon Quitsland
Japanese Community – Kay Nakao
Military Community – TBD
Grow Community’s Future – Greg Lotakis

The ceremony was initiated between the Grow Team and a Bainbridge community group lead by Karen Vargas, out of a desire to honor the early Japanese Community in this area of the island as well as those families and Military Veterans that made the Government Way housing their home, and to capture the stories of those that spent time in this place.

An early historical record/study was commissioned (Quitsland report) during the planning process for the Grow project to inform us about the history of the area.  While the report touches only the tip of the iceberg, much of the history is rich with food production and community – two of the major themes for our new development.  The Grow Family homesteaded in the area and on the property we are developing.  What was once a strawberry field will again be home to fruit trees and garden beds.  The next 5 acre phase of the project alone will have 3 acres of open space that will be mixed with fields, orchards, and light forest groves.

The history of this site teaches us that the area was rich with community connection. The beauty in our recent work with Karen and others is the richness of the place in community and the stories we plan to tell andpreserve.  The military families and the Japanese community who touched this land each provide a glimpse into the past.  Our intent is that the Grow neighborhood will honor the past by creating a renewed connection to community through the land.  In our opinion, too often new development disregards these connections to each other, therebylimiting  opportunities to create a sense of place.

We are working toward a way to share the stories once the Grow neighborhood is complete.   We are currently considering telling the story in a variety of formats within our new community center and through interpretive signage throughout the property.

Some other worthy notes include:

1/  All play equipment will be collected by BI Parks Department for future reuse
2/  Small items from the homes/site will be saved by the community group focused on historical honoring
3/  Reusable items in the homes will be salvaged and repurposed
4/  Remaining structures will be used for training by Fire & Police
5/  All demolition debris will be recycled where applicable
6/  House numbers will go with those that grew up in the homes
7/  Stories will be collected and kept with appropriate entity (City or Museum)


Before new development, remembering history of Bainbridge street – KITSAP SUN

By Ethan Fowler
Saturday, March 15, 2014

Former Navy housing on Government Way on Bainbridge Island is slated to be torn down in April to make way for the second phase of the Grow Community, a sustainable housing development. (LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN)

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — A lot of history is being dismantled as 16 single-family homes on John Adams Lane make way for a 5-acre development.

Decades ago, the street was home to a thriving Japanese population, which built a huge community hall in 1927 that hosted weddings and funerals.

Later, homes on the street were taken over by the Navy, and military members created memories raising their families on Bainbridge Island.

The street, which was known as Government Way from 1957 to 2007, will being developed later this spring as part of the second phase of the Grow Community. Grow 2.0, as it’s being called, will be 5 acres developed on what is now John Adams Lane. It will feature 3 acres of open space that will be mixed with fields, orchards and light forest groves, said Greg Lotakis, project manager for Asani Developments on the Grow Community project.

But before the homes are knocked down, a community celebration will be held at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on the old basketball court on the street. The event is a way to bring closure for those who remember the neighborhood for what it used to be. And it’s an opportunity to celebrate former residents, some who were part of high-profile events in history.

Residents such as:

—Tony Watson, a Navy underwater diver who was on TWA Flight 847 when it was hijacked in 1985 and later held hostage for two weeks in Beirut, Lebanon, before being released.

—Peter Iwane Ohtaki, a 31-year Japan Airlines executive who was a contributor to opening trade avenues between Seattle and Asia.

—Brian Moss, who served on the USS Alabama submarine at Bangor and died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terroristic attacks while working at the Pentagon.

To honor those residents — many of who served in the Navy while the 16 homes served as military housing — representatives from the Navy, Grow, the Japanese American community, American Legion Post 172, past residents and more are expected to attend the event.

“Those 16 little houses and those that lived there have touched the world,” said Karen Vargas, who lived on the street twice and has tracked down much of the street’s colorful history.

There are also stories of Utah Jazz player Marvin Williams traveling from Bremerton to practice with friends at the basketball court as a youth. Or Gov. Jay Inslee, a Bainbridge resident, who carpooled children to the baseball diamond off Weaver Road for Little League practices in the late 1990s, Vargas said.

Cindy Rees is one of two people to live on Government Way with the military — from 1996 to 2004 — and as a civilian — from 2010 to 2013. She said she found a lot of peace moving into the house next door to where she raised her four children.

“I founded the Bainbridge Island Special Olympics team out of my house,” Rees said. “There’s so many stories there. One of those days is 9/11.”

She remembers her husband at home in his uniform, reacting to the news and telling her, “I still need to go to work.”

“The whole community went on around us, but we stayed together through that ordeal,” she said.

She recalls lighter moments: kids sledding down the street during a 2002 snowstorm. A big street party that they got permission to hold.

Before the government housing, the street was home to a thriving Japanese population, which built a huge community hall in 1927. Events held at the hall included basketball, jujitsu training, social events and movies. The hall went into default during the three-year interment of the Japanese during World War II. It was purchased by a private owner and partially converted into a home by removing the roof and adding room dividers.

Frank Vibrans later bought the home, at 330 Shepard Way, and finished the conversion and lived there, Vargas said.

“We thought it was so weird for someone to build in that hall, but it was so huge,” said Kay Nakoa, 94, who was born on the island. “We had weddings and funerals there.”

The Grow Family homesteaded in the area, according to the Grow Community’s website.

Nakoa fondly remembered Will Grow’s grape vineyard, which was on the south side of the community hall. She recalled children often eating the grapes.

“We used to go and swipe grapes,” said Nakoa, who worked 25 years as a checker at Town & Country Market.

As a way to save much of the street’s history, American Legion Post 172 Commander Fred Scheffler plans to create a repository for the memorabilia. Vargas plans to assemble a booklet to present to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. At Thursday’s ceremony, Scheffler hopes to chronicle the residents by having them sign their names with the year they arrived and left.

“With the last person living there signing it last,” Scheffler said.

Even though Rees said she has a lot of good memories of living on Government Way, she said it’s time for a new development.

“I hear people say they shouldn’t take down those houses, but these houses needed to be torn down years ago,” Rees said. “What’s awesome is having the Grow Community doing it environmentally friendly and we appreciate that the Grow Community listened to us to do this (ceremony.)”


The Honoring Historic Government Way ceremony will take place Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at John Adams Way NW (formerly Government Way) on the old basketball court.

The community is invited to share stories that organizers plan to preserve in a pamphlet form and possibly on-site markers. If you have a story to share and can’t attend, please email it to

February Status at Grow Community

What’s Coming Next?

The first neighborhood at Grow Community will come together this summer when the rental homes are finished.  In order to keep moving toward completion of the entire community, we have been working hard to come up with a design that meets all of our criteria and that builds on everything we’ve learned over the past several years.The next two neighborhoods at Grow will continue to meet our One Planet goals, with a focus on truly intergenerational living.  Sixty percent of the homes will be accessible, with aging in community as a design priority.  In addition, a number of the homes are being designed and priced for young families, creating that mix of vibrant and lively interaction that makes Grow such a great place to live.

Community Green Spaces PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE

Wed. March 5: 6.30-8.30pm

Three out of the five acres in the next neighborhood will be community green space. These spaces will include gardens, native forest, and play areas for young and old alike.  We would like to share with you the preliminary designs and hear your thoughts.  Please join us at a March 5th evening Open House at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, to share in the conversation about how we can create the green spaces in a manner that enhances community.All are invited.
Location: Bainbridge Island Museum of Art – 550 Winslow Way East
Click here to download the event flier


Status on the Construction Site

 After mid-March only one home remains to be built in the first neighborhood.

Construction on the Cooper Apartments is well underway. As the single-family homes are completed the attention will be turned to the apartments through mid summer to get them finished up.

The landscaping, pathways and  community bulletin  boards are all getting finished up in time for spring, and residents are enthusiastically planning the community garden spaces in their pocket neighborhoods.

Solar installations have continued on homes over the last several months and several more are expected in March/April.  We have enjoyed seeing our solar garden grow!