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The History of Atangard

In one of our directors meetings, it was brought up that a lot of people now residing were not involved in the development process and do not know the story of our home. I put this presentation together for our housemeeting. Thought you might enjoy. -Soph


Your twenties can be a tumultuous segment of your life. From school, to relationships, to work, goals, plans and desires, trying to find things to hold on to can be difficult. I think for a lot of us here at Atangard, the idea of living in community comes with the hope that we will have something to hold on to: friends, a place, a home. It is what attracts many here, and also what keeps people here much longer than they anticipated. No matter how often a housemate is away, unable to participate in the group, or unavailable, the things that always keep them here are the warm, encouraging people living in the other rooms. It’s why it’s so difficult to see people move on, seeing life pull them away from something they want.

This year has been one of many changes here at Atangard. Almost all the faces have changed since the project started four years ago. Even for someone who, in the greater context, hasn’t lived here very long, I’ve seen an almost complete turn-over of residents. Since moving in a year-and-a-half ago, there are seventeen new faces. Six people remain from that time, only two of which are from the original group that moved in in 2009. And that excludes those who came and went while I lived here. We are a shining example of the transience of our generation.

This is not unique to Atangard. Whether through graduating from college, moving cities to start careers, or forming relationships that pull us from our hometowns, people our age end up moving around a lot. A well known preacher and speaker commented on this recently, saying that our generation desires community, but is unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to create it. I think that although some truth can be found in that, it is not that we are unwilling to make the sacrifices. We are often forced, through no fault of our own, to sacrifice community for the opportunities presented to us. Especially for those with post-secondary degrees, who are looking to begin careers in the fields of their studies, it can be very difficult to find meaningful work. Growing up in our culture, so many of us were encouraged to go to college or university, that now the job-market is over-crowded with BA’s. Almost any given job now requires years of experience, that can only be found in the very jobs that are asking for it. In order to find work in our disciplines, we chase opportunities, which often pull us away from our social groups, whether that be family, friends, churches or others. To not work for minimum wage or wait tables, post-grads must either jump deeper into dept for masters degrees or move to where the jobs are. Both options tend to strip people from their communities. The millenial’s sacrifice of community is less of a choice and more often a necessity for survival in our culture.

For someone who believes in committing to a community, I can have trouble not taking it personally when people decide to sacrifice it for the opportunities being presented to them. I need to consciously step back and realize that some day I may need to do the same thing, and that their need to find their own place in society does not necessarily reflect on their ability to commit to the here and now. Their need to follow their life-goals does not mean they have commitment issues. It is possible to love something and let it go.

Calgary Herald talks “Intentional communities”

Beth and Mark our old roomies talk to the Calgary Herald about living in community. Read “Intentional communities” 

Vancouver Sun Article Jan. 1st, 2013: Notorious Abbotsford SRO becomes community living experiment

Atangard Coat of Arms designed and painted by:

Tessa Suderman and Beth Freeman 

Online Link to article: Click Here


One of Abbotsford’s most notorious single-resident occupancy hotels has been transformed into a creative experiment in community living.
The Fraser Valley Inn is a long, red-brick building at the corner of Essendene and West Railway with a sign promising “cold beer to go at rock bottom prices.” A pub, a nightclub, an Indian restaurant and a liquor store occupy the ground floor. Until a few years ago, the upstairs was a single resident occupancy hotel (SRO), with cigarette burns on the walls and a reputation for drugs. In 2005, the city of Abbotsford ordered it closed and rezoned the building as commercial space.
But the lights are on again upstairs. There’s a coat rack in the entrance. The halls are lined with paintings. One room is full of bicycles and another is furnished with vintage couches.
Atangard Community Project is a not-for-profit society registered with the city of Abbotsford. Residents must be between the ages of 19 and 35, either employed or enrolled in school. Rent is $375 per month for a small room or $500 for a larger one. Dinners are communal and everyone is expected to cook two meals a month. The community operates a car share and grows beans, blackberries, strawberries, zucchini, corn and chard in a community garden nearby.
On the evening I visit, the kitchen is hopping. People are helping themselves to Mexican bean stew from a row of crock pots on the counter. Two musicians wearing skinny jeans and plaid shirts have just come home from a month-long tour. Everyone gets up from the table to give them a hug.
Sophia Suderman, 29, has curly red hair and lots of energy. She’s the visionary who started the project in 2007. She had just returned from a backpacking trip to Latin America where she was impressed by a culture that valued community and relationships. “When I got back I was feeling so disconnected from people. Here everyone’s so busy with school or work,” she said.
Suderman noticed that the second floor of the Fraser Valley Inn was vacant and she had an idea. She, her sister Tessa, and their father Dave, a masonry contractor, invested their own money in leasing and renovating the hotel. It took two years of red tape to register the organization and get the hotel rezoned as residential.
By the time the city approved the project, a group of about 20 young people had gathered around the idea. It took them five months of work to clean up, sanitize and renovate the old hotel. Volunteers filled three Dumpsters with soiled mattresses, stale carpeting, needles, porn magazines and even a blow-up doll. Dave Suderman headed up the renovations, installing new plywood flooring, solving plumbing problems, replacing ceiling tiles, painting and rewiring. In September 2009, about 20 people moved in.
Jordan Todd, a bearded 27-year-old sociology student with an elaborate cross tattooed on his forearm, says Atangard is ideal for young people who are ready to move out of their parents’ basements but who can’t afford to rent or buy their own homes.
Todd thrives on the social energy of Atangard. But it’s not for everyone, he says. Even though the rules are few, living closely with others involves giving up a certain amount of autonomy. When 26 people share a kitchen you can’t leave dirty dishes on the counter.
Another drawback is the noise. By 10:30 on a Friday night, the floor is literally trembling with the thump of dance music from the nightclub downstairs.
Although many of the residents are Christian, that’s mainly because Abbotsford has a large Christian population. There are no religious requirements for living at Atangard.
Todd gets odd reactions when he tells people where he lives. Walking his dog in the neighbourhood has given him a chance to get to know the names of a handful of homeless people who live downtown.

Occasionally someone will say, “You live up there? I was there 20 years ago. It’s a lot different now.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

[Posted by Jordan Todd]

Atangard Movie Trailers – Christmas 2012

Footage Provided By: Tessa Suderman Levi Binder Jordan Todd Video Edited By: Jordan Todd [Posted by Jordan Todd]

All I want for Christmas

TESSA SUDERMAN – Director/Producer/Editor
LISA MARIE – Actress
BENOIT BULOT – Rockstar [Posted by: Jordan Todd]

Don’t worry. As long as you hit that wire with the connecting hook at precisely 88 miles per hour, the instant the lightning strikes the tower… everything will be fine.

Archived photographs of the Atangard Hotel/ Downtown Abbotsford.

Abbotsford Times Article

[Posted by Jordan]


Atangard Group Shot @ Mark and Beth’s Wedding

[Posted by Jordan]

Atangard Community News Article

Former Abbotsford hotel rooms turned into ‘intentional community’

Levi Binder tends to get the same reaction when he tells people he resides in the Fraser Valley Inn.
They usually get a look of distaste on their face.
Binder, 21, loves the opportunity to inform people about the transformation the facility experienced more than three years ago.
No longer is it a hotel renting rooms to some of the city’s most down-trodden citizens. New owners purchased the rooming facilities, renovated them and turned them into an “intentional community” for students and young professionals aged 19 to 35.
The Atangard Community Project, a registered not-for-profit society, now occupies the entire second floor of the building at the corner of Essendene Avenue and West Railway Street in downtown Abbotsford.
There, residents pay affordable rent – between $375 to $500 per room – in exchange for a communal living situation, including shared chores and group dinners.
Stained carpets have been replaced by dark-hardwood floors. Colourful artwork lines the walls.
Each room has a unique character as determined by the resident’s decorating tastes, and doors to each suite are often left open. Currently, 24 residents occupy 19 single- and double-occupancy rooms.
The lack of privacy is not for everyone, but the openness, and the sense of family it creates, is what draws people to live at Atangard, said Lisa Ottevangers, 22, a resident who is also a member of the project’s board of directors.
“If I need someone to talk to, there’s always someone there. I love the idea of sharing life with people,” she said.
Interested tenants must complete an application form and undergo an interview. The goal is to include like-minded people who believe in the strength of building relationships, as well as environmental and social responsibility.
They must sign a contract, agreeing to certain responsibilities such as cooking dinner for everyone twice a month, helping with the household cleaning, or caring for the community garden.
Many have an artsy side, resulting in impromptu jam sessions or additions to the makeshift art gallery lining the walls.
About 60 per cent of the current residents are students. For example, Binder is studying to be a teacher, while Ottevangers is working towards a career in social work.
Others have jobs. Mark Freeman, 26, is a flight attendant for WestJet, while his wife works at a plant nursery.
They live at the Atangard – named after the hotel that first occupied the space – partly to save money to pay off debt, but mainly because of the atmosphere.
“I live in the same house with all my friends. It’s almost like you’re getting away with something,” Freeman laughs. “My life is in this building, and it is awesome to me.”
Ottevangers acknowledges that there can be the occasional issue over, for instance, dishes left in the sink, but the residents are good at communicating with one another and working out their differences.
The benefits of having a group of people to lean on far outweigh these small issues, Binder said.
“You’re losing personal space towards the betterment of other people,” he said.
Adam Roper, 27, said the Atangard has provided him with something that might otherwise be missing in his life.
“I found myself a home here.
“Over the years, it’s become a family in the true sense,” he said.
Article link:

[Posted by Jordan Todd]

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