Friday, February 25, 2011

Aurora Commons

By Andrew W.E. Carlson

I had my own misgivings about Aurora when I moved to the area. It seemed to me like a highway, or a swiftly moving river without many crossings. But I found myself living on that highway, becoming acquainted with my neighbors and then transformed by those relationships. It turns out a number of other people living on or near Aurora Avenue are experiencing something similar, so we’ve been working to create a neighborhood living room, where we can participate together in a story of community. We’re calling it The Aurora Commons.

A lot of people ask what this place is. There isn’t an easy answer, because in many ways we’re just trying to put a roof over the surprisingly beautiful stuff that is already happening in the neighborhood. A few summers ago, for instance, we initiated a communal garden and weekly BBQs. The rhythm was birthed out of simple curiosity and a desire to know our neighbors, and has become a full-fledged festival resembling one of Tolkien’s secondary worlds. You see home-owning families sharing the table with families from nearby motels, a homeless woman chatting it up with someone visiting from out of town, a hopeless veteran mingling with an optimistic college student.

We want to continue creating these secondary worlds where people from all walks of life are recognizing one another as neighbors. That’s the motivation behind The Aurora Commons. You leave your status at the door.

People are catching wind of the mystery already. Most of the remodeling work has been done by volunteers from the neighborhood. In fact, not long ago a floor specialist named Ray noticed the stacks of hardwood awaiting installation. Fourteen consecutive volunteer days later, and with assistance from people inspired by his generosity, he backed away proudly from a gorgeous floor.

I overheard a conversation between Ray and a pessimistic passer-by. Ray was telling him about the vision, and the guy responded, “Oh, I gotcha, another place for people to get handouts.” Ray was quick to correct him. “It’s not like that here. This is a place for relationships, for everyone to share their lives and stories with one another.”

I recognize that the story of Aurora is not always uplifting. But those of us who have been digging in a little have discovered a wealth of life along the corridor. It is a highway, but there’s always another story. Aurora appears to us like a river. And not just an annoying obstacle between the ridge and the lake, this river’s bank is worth spending time along.

The Aurora Commons is located at 8914 Aurora Avenue. Stop by, have a cup of coffee with one of your neighbors, and check out for more inspiration.


Join Aurora Commons for a free art class, storytelling, a cup of coffee, open-mic night, yoga, conversation, summer BBQs, community and much more.

Interested in volunteering? Check their website at

For more information, contact Launa Steinsdoerfer (Program Coordinator) at

1 comment:

  1. Since June '95 I've seen a few attempts from folks to clean-up this neighborhood with the approach of chasing out the so-called "bad people". The result had always backfired on these people who meant well, but truly fed into the problems of this neighborhood, rather than solving them.
    Aurora Commons have so-far proven successful with an opposite approach to the same dilema that ails this neighborhood. They embrace the same people that others have rejected before. By doing so, it has allowed individuals to open their positive side, and practice well-being for the neighbors around them.
    This, I have noticed in just the last year or so, an obvious improvement to the neihborhood. Imagine this continuing for years to come!

    (anonymous neighbor)