Colony1 Eco-Friendly Community to Build Sustainable "Living Building" in Wynwood

Forget San Francisco or Portland. Thanks to Colony1, Miami might be the next sustainable Shangri-La.

In the works in Wynwood is a community classroom, vegan kitchen, urban garden, bulk food store, and multifaceted facility, thanks to environmental pioneers Nando and Blair Jaramillo and their organization, the Art of Cultural Evolution (ACE).

The building and community hub is in its initial planning stages, but to welcome the upcoming addition, ACE is hosting a get-to-know-you neighborhood event in conjunction with Art Walk this Saturday. Pop in for some mulching fun, a vegan pot luck, fresh fruit, music and social time with some of Miami's finest minds.

The Jaramillos have made a name for themselves via their environmental efforts. For four years the couple and their children lived on a converted bus that ran on waste vegetable oil (known as WVO), and last year their organization took a vacant lot in Wynwood and turned it into a sustainable land lab that fed more than a dozen families.

Thanks to Miami's many assets -- plentiful sun, rain, and lush growing conditions -- the Jaramillos believe it's a natural choice for sustainable living.

Aboard their bus, the family traveled the country learning about the latest in conscious living and environmental sustainability -- then decided to bring the knowledge back to benefit Miami.

Recently, the county awarded the couple's organization, The Art of Cultural Evolution, a vacant lot in Wynwood to be used to construct their vision of a sustainability center.

"We're building a completely living building -- sustainable architecture, sustainable energy, sustainable water." says Blair. "It'll be the first in the southeast region of the U.S. and it will be the 15th building in the entire world to be a living building."

Designees of the "Living building" challenge are several steps up from more common environmental certifications, such as LEED certification. Basically, the building will take care of itself.

Recently, the Jaramillos hosted a Miami Design Charette on Environmental Leadership Skills, helping participants learn about their upcoming plans and contribute ideas.

The building, once complete, will offer a whole host of programming.

"We'll have an art and science residency program. An artist and a scientist will reside at the facility and produce an exhibition out of that residency," Blair explains.

In addition, they'll have a vegan cook and training program; a community garden; various classes, programs and workshops -- even a bulk food store. They also hope to partner with a nearby school to teach kids about sustainable living and how to grow food.

"There's high demand for an opportunity for children to see where food comes from ... to be outside and just play in a way that is free and connected to all these other educational elements we're going to have."

Full build-out is approximately two years away. Currently, they're applying for grants and working on funding. Their first step is to settle into the community and let everyone know what they're up to, hence this weekend's meet-and-greet.

"We're going to start a garden. We'll be doing soil remediation first and get everybody aware of Colony1 and what's going on in that lot," Blair says.

Oh, and they're looking for an artist to paint their ACE truck at the event. Interested artisans can email nando@artofculturalevolution.org with ideas.

The event will take place on Saturday, July 12, from 4 p.m. until sunset at 550 NW 22nd St. It's free and open to everyone.

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