First-time developer has unique vision for Squamish property 

Retired business owner looking for spiritual people to back her vision

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In 1976, Clasina Van Bemmel created the Vancouver Outdoor Club for Women.

In 2013 she is once again creating a new community but this time it is in Squamish and the stakes are higher.

Van Bemmel, who is closing in on 70 years of living, wants to develop the vacant land she has owned since 1999 next to the Howe Sound Inn on Cleveland Avenue. Her plan is to do it in a very communal way with an emphasis on spirituality, simplicity and service. Van Bemmel envisions a four-storey environmentally friendly and sustainable building containing 40 individually owned apartments, a retreat centre with 36 individual small guest rooms, a centre courtyard, a rooftop garden, a restaurant, a communal vegetarian kitchen where communal meals can be prepared, meeting rooms, studios, a hot tub and a multi-purpose hall for spiritual services, weddings, retreats, meditation, lectures, concerts.

The former Pinecrest resident, who lives in Nanaimo in the summer and Arizona in the winter, wrote an article about her vision in the January edition of Common Ground, a magazine focused on health, wellness, ecology and personal growth. That article generated so much interest that a meeting of intrigued individuals is set for April 27 in Vancouver to further explore the concept.

"The goals are set for construction in 2014, but that can only be done if the bank agrees to the loan we need," said the former Vancouver entrepreneur of the year award winner.

She said her vision was inspired by the philosophies of the Centre for Spiritual Living and her travels to India and Nepal where she visited ashrams and monasteries. Beyond those experiences she said she is not basing her vision on a similar project built somewhere else, this is her vision from the ground up and a place where spiritual people can live and grow together without focusing on a particular religion or spiritual teacher.

"The intention is for The Centre to be a warm, vibrant and welcoming spiritual space with opportunities for regular meditation, chanting, dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, singing, sharing meals, music from all traditions, and celebrating together in a variety of ways," Van Bemmel wrote in Common Ground. "The potential is enormous and the possibilities are exciting. Shared values include embracing diversity, respect and compassion for all, and finding meaning in life through a unity of purpose and a commitment to service."

The plan is to sell the 40 living units at market value so Van Bemmel can use the proceeds to finance the shared-use portions of the centre.

"This is not a business I am running," said Van Bemmel in comparing the development project to the three businesses she previously ran. "If it takes five or 10 years it doesn't matter to me."

She hopes that a core group of people will come together following the April 27 meeting to help her move the idea forward as a shared project.

"I have vision, I have the land but I don't want it to be my project," said Van Bemmel. "I want people to be involved."

Van Bemmel said that after gaining experience in business, writing a book, sculpting, travelling around the world and doing charity work she wants to do something close to home that will allow her to contribute back to the world.


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