The Power of Community

Rebuilding Bayview


Bayview: 300+ year old community located on the eastern shore of Virginia and is a community that is rich in culture and tradition.


It is physically isolated from the rest of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay and a 10-mile bridge, resulting in an economical and psychological separation that has kept this peninsula one of the poorest regions in Virginia.

This small community of Bayview dates back to the Emancipation, and some residents can trace their family roots back 350 years. Most of the families in this community live in 2 room shacks with no plumbing. The only water supply is pumped by hand from 2 wells which are not deep enough to reach sanitary water.

1994.jpgThis community was the proposed site of a maximum-security prison in 1994. Members of the community rallies and joined together to fight this proposal, coming out with a win in the spring of 1995. Three years later, the community organized as the Bayview Citizens for Social Jusitce, and began form partnerships, including the Nature Conservancy, an influential land conservation organization, in hope of improving the standard of living for the people.

After raising $11 million through federal, state, and private funds, they purchased 160 acres of farmland.


The Mission

“Identify and solve pollution problems resulting from substandard drinking water, waste water, and storm water conditions in the economically and socially stressed African-American neighborhood of Bayview.”

Now comes the rebuilding. What makes this mission and rebuild successful, is the strong community behind it, wanting this change. The entire community was determined to change their quality of life.

“Rebuilding a community begins with the ability of ordinary citizens to influence the important planning decisions that affect their lives…The group envisioned a village of collectively owned affordable homes without stigma, neighborhood-owned businesses, community institutions, and public places, all set in a productive agricultural landscape.”


The Process


“Participatory design process as a community consensus builder and catalyst for physical and social change. Through neighborhood meetings, community events, and design workshops, they successfully charted a long-term plan to rebuild their community as a new rural village.”

The entire planning process came about over the course of 1 year, with 10 meetings between the designers and the community.

Workshops became a way of gathering oral history, sharing living conditions, as well as opportunities for the community to share alternative concepts for the community’s future plan.

Storytelling was the tool used for gathering information about the history of the community, and the goal was “to inspire residents to envision Bayview as it once was and to incorporate that spirit in any formal structure proposed for a new community.”

Short-term goals were also established while they were in the process of envisioning the future for their community. The strategy was to set goals that could be achieved by the community, which would not only strengthen their organizational skills, their confidence in achieving a better future.

The Outcome

2013.jpg“The spiritual rebirth of this community and the present-day political process of community empowerment is still underway at Bayview.”

In the first phase, they built 48 one, two, and three bedroom apartments, 22 single family homes, a laundry facility, a Community Enrichment Center, and a few other facilities.

They are currently working towards the next phase of development.

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