When Laurent, S.D., is completely built out, it will look like any other community designed with new urbanism principles except for one thing: It will be the first town created for people who use sign language as their primary means of communication.
“We want to be a place where people who sign can live, work, stay, and play,” says M.E. Barwacz, CEO of The Laurent Co. in Sioux Falls, S.D. “We also want to be a tourist destination worldwide for a signing culture.”
The goal of Laurent's creators, Marvin Miller and Barwacz, is to build a town where deaf individuals—and their signing family members—can own their own businesses and schools and can live and vacation among others like themselves. The town is being patterned after a community that long existed on Martha's Vineyard where many of the citizens were deaf.
Laurent will have a European flavor, says Barwacz, and an estimated population of 1,250 to 4,000 people. Like other new urbanist developments, it will be pedestrian friendly with its own amenities. A mixture of housing types will include live/work lofts and townhouses to promote density, though some single-family and side-yard homes on bigger lots will be located farther away from the town center.
The Laurent Co. expects a 2005 groundbreaking, and those individuals who have made reservations for Phase I should be moving in by late 2006 and early 2007. For more information, visit www.laurentsd.com.