I had spent far too many hours each day commuting to the city, and felt trapped into the pattern of high fares, poor service, a very long working day if you include commuting time and a very poor overall quality of life. So why did we do it. Well it was the only way we could afford a home with me only working while we started a family.
When I first heard of the floating kingdom, I thought perhaps if I got in early then at least commuting distances while it was small would be small, and what an environment for the family to grow up in.
I looked at some of the options being talked about, and suddenly realized that I could, if I wished, join in the debate, and perhaps have an effect on developments. I discussed the idea on the web with a wide range of people, most who had never even heard of the project until I raised it, and very quickly I became the sort of leader of this unofficial group.
My wife luckily got as excited as I did, and with her admin background and desire to do more than just look after the home decided to help me formalize and run a group.
In many ways we were just lucky, taking an interest at the right time, having Joanne at home with abilities unused and my desire to find a better way of life.
The island that between us we designed had a mixture of homes and offices, and a small sports center, a supermarket and village center with all you would most like to find there.
For a while the sticking point was the surface some wanted some up market homes, some parkland, and others offices with large windows. What we settled for, as with many committee based operations was a compromise, but we believe what we all settled for was just about right.
There are as you might expect a pair of islands, that will be run as a community together, and administered by a community council. We arranged with the floating kingdom that rather than giving them one of the islands as normal we would be giving them half of the space within each. This meant that shopping centers, and offices, plus some other facilities were given to the state while we had all the homes to sell. At the same time we also set up an estate agency operation to handle the letting of some units and the letting of offices, shops etc. In effect we would be running the entire community over two large islands.
The islands are fairly standard in design, homes are around the outside, to several floors above ground level, across the middle we have a large office building, one side of this has quality homes and the other a parkland. Both islands are nearly identical, although where on one we have the health club, pool and halls, the other has a school.
The office block has very large windows overlooking the park, and decent sized windows set in such a way on the other side that you cannot look into the houses around them. They are just slightly higher than normal slope slightly in towards the top and each has a sun shield that also limits the view downwards from the one above. The housing in the other wall around these homes have similar arrangements making it a very private housing area for quality homes. The wall homes on the other half of the island are slightly larger and have picture windows looking over the park, but alternately angled slightly to the left or right and slightly mirrored so that people from the offices cannot look into them.
By this means we have a wide range of homes suiting all budgets, from lower wall units that have outer windows only, to smaller higher wall units with a restricted view to large apartments in the other end overlooking the park to designer select homes on the surface within their own enclosed community.
Within the island with a school we have just below a lot of facilities for teenagers, its like a sub village, with all sorts of club and other facilities, and in the same place on the other island is a nursery, mother and toddler and similar facilities.
We as a community own a number of homes that are fully fitted up and let out as guest accommodation for our families who visit from our old countries.
What we thought would be the hardest part getting funding was in fact the easiest, as we set the whole operation up in a similar way to a self build group, where we all were involved in the projects and got funding under one of the schemes that is normally available for self build groups. We brought in some external people, a person who was a manager for an estate agency to help set the prices for the relevant units, an architect to produce the drawings and a build manager to get prices from different sub contractors. Joanne and I undertook the overall management, and the group agreed that as a reward we would be given one of the luxury surface homes, however we also bought two of the better of the wall units, which we will let out for the time being, and give to our two children as wedding presents when they get older. The cost of these was about the same as the value we we got for our existing home.
The only slight change we made after the initial idea was announced was to add two small office units, one on each island within the parks, one was for our own administration and has a link down to the school area allowing the schools access easily to the park, an area of which has been set aside as sports grounds, and a matching unit on the other island that we gave to the kingdom, and they have chosen to use it as as a small unit where people can get together to discuss problems and overcome conflict.
The offices and other spaces was let very quickly, and although there is a turnover of some of the smaller shop units we have found the majority are occupied at any time.
I now manage the islands, with the help of Joanne and a few other mothers who work hours around their children and family, and we have managed similarly to persuade some of the firms occupying the offices to have a part of their staff who work a lower number of flexible hours, and the kingdom people were very supportive in this allowing us to vary the office rents for space, allowing incentives for firms to do this. Overall of course they did not loose out as we just increased the overall slightly so as to be able to subsidize some parts.
The community very much has an owner feel, and we now have a waiting list for people who are looking to get the opportunity to move in, and this has greatly inflated property values encouraging some to move to later developments and the development of some new similar developments. Most of us however are so happy here that we will be staying. In the longer term too many being happy could become a problem in that we will not have the younger families and children, as we all grow older together, and for this reason we have recently set up a joint group with a number of other islands, so that we have more social contact and more flow of people across the islands. This group is now looking at getting into the development of new community islands, and will be extremely profitable for our existing residents, who will get the chance to sell and move to new developments that will quickly become very similar, and opening up more homes for younger couples to come in. Some of the profitability from these developments we hope to be able to offer as a form of very long interest free loan to help younger couples with only one working partner to be able to afford to move in.
Being a sealed community we have no crime, and although all communities have occasional problems, and families do occasionally break up here as they do everywhere, we help each other out and work together to help all of our families.
Today now the floating kingdom has become so well known and demand is so high, there are still many opportunities, however I feel we were very lucky to have been able to have got in so early, and the job satisfaction we have had in establishing this community is far greater than we would have been able to have got where we were.
One visitor recently from our old country asked us would we move back to where we were before. What do you think. From my viewpoint I would no more want to do that than take my family to live in a mud hut in Africa.
Copyright New Atlantis.