By Sue and Fred Webber, Members; Jessica Hamilton, Administrator, Gramercy Club at Elm Creek
"A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” Committees are often the butt of jokes or the source of frustration. Not at Gramercy Club at Elm Creek (GEC), where committees work well … very, very well … making the cooperative a fun and relaxing place to live, as well as a good investment! GEC sits high on a hill overlooking charming Uptown Hamel on the south, the rest of Medina on the west and north, and Elm Creek Golf Course in Plymouth on the east. The 87-unit market-rate cooperative was completed in 2005, the last “Gramercy” built by Gramercy Corp.
Aside from its location and other amenities, what makes GEC unique is its members and their involvement with committees, both within the cooperative and in outside communities. Internally, the Finance Committee has developed and enforced strong budgeting procedures. These have enabled GEC to maintain its building and make significant improvements to its grounds, while keeping monthly fees at reasonable levels. (Its 2008 budget was within $800 of actual expenditures.) The Social Committee has set up trips ranging from Twins games to Guthrie performances and other activities throughout the metro area. Monthly potluck dinners show off the culinary skills of members, while providing an opportunity for fellowship. Speakers and local performing groups have been invited to perform or make presentations. A holiday sing-a-long is a favorite activity for many. Card and poker players find other avid game players, as do people who like puzzles, exercise and knitting. Since the doors first opened, members have gathered on late Friday afternoons for a casual snack/supper, called Friday with Friends, as well.
GEC’s Workshop Committee has a full complement of manual and power tools, allowing members to design and build attractive and functional bookshelves, benches and other furniture in the building. In addition to maintaining a well-stocked media library — books, magazines, videotapes, and DVDs donated by residents — members of the GEC Library Committee have taken turns staffing the Uptown Hamel Library.
The GEC building and grounds are a great source of pride to its members, making a lasting positive impression on visitors. The property truly looks better than new because of the efforts of the Garden Committee, the Grounds Committee, and the Building Committee. Member security is assured by the GEM Committee, which “patrols” the common areas in the evenings to be sure doors are locked, draped are closed and the building is secure.
A Policies and Procedures Committee has completely revised the Members’ Manual, bringing it up to date and addressing changing local regulations and laws. The Decorating Committee has selected furnishings and paintings for the common areas, making the building one of the most attractive in the Twin Cities. This committee has been particularly valued during the winter holidays, when a floor-to-ceiling tree with ornaments graced the entryway. A smaller tree was placed in the dining room, where small live poinsettia plants added festive color. The annual Mitten Tree gives members an opportunity to give back to the community by providing mittens for needy youngsters. The Kitchen Committee takes responsibility for organizing and maintaining this frequently used room. The committee also has raised funds to upgrade tableware and dinnerware. Members have worked together on an annual garage sale, with proceeds going to special projects.
Other committees – Sunshine, Marketing, Newsletter, Reception and Welcoming — are active throughout the year, making GEC a fun and relaxing place to live. Outside the building, GEC members represent the cooperative to Hamel and the cities of Medina and Plymouth, attending nearly all city council meetings, promoting the interests of the cooperative. Quite often, GEC members present the views and opinions of the cooperative to the councils.
More than just representation, though, GEC has actively brought the city to the co-op. In 2006 and 2008, GEC hosted candidates’ forums, inviting city council candidates to present their platforms and field questions from GEC members and nearby homeowners. As a result, local governments have sought GEC opinions on traffic conditions, proposed development and other community matters.
GEC members participate in a number of community events in Plymouth and Medina. For example, someone from Gramercy attends every Uptown Hamel meeting and tries to make positive contributions. GEC members have worked on Medina Celebration days and the Uptown Hamel Walking Tour. GEC is an active participant in National Night Out, inviting neighbors and law enforcement officials to have refreshments and interact with residents. Providing essential help to all the committees are a full-time administrator and maintenance specialist. A seven-member board works from written goals. Members were involved in the process, and each board meeting reviews the board’s progress on the goals, and updates the goals annually. At Gramercy Club at Elm Creek, location, amenities, construction, security and members who participate in committees make a unique cooperative community.