TRG in the Twin Cities
From: apguirard (apguirardmmm.com)
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 92 12:38 CST
I'm a member of the TRG group in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Since we 
haven't
heard from Mark Richards yet, the other member of our group that I know is on 
this
list, I thought I would post and give a little more detail than Fred Olson gave 
in his
original message.

Fred mentioned that our group is largely composed of people who already know
each other from running a large local science fiction convention.  I think this
is a big plus for us in terms of organizational and planning experience.  We 
have a
lot of members skilled in group process and concensus decision making, and
I think we can see more clearly some of the obstacles we will encounter in
these areas, than others who might not have such experience.

We did have an option on an old school building in a local suburb, that we had 
to give
up primarily because the cost of abating asbestos and of meeting local fire 
codes. 
Cost seems to be our main consideration -- we are not a rich group.  But in
discussions on the topic, it has come out that if it turns out we can't afford 
something
sufficiently like cohousing, then most of us are not really interested in the 
lesser-cost
alternatives.  As an example, we definitely could afford to purchase an existing
apartment building and use it as is -- however, nobody seems to favor this 
option
because it's not really cohousing.  Our top priority as a group at this time is
determining what is the least we are willing to accept in terms of amount of
living area, common facilities, and architectural style, and figuring out 
whether we
can pay for it.  We are looking into using OPM (other people's money) for as 
much
of this as we can.  For instance, low and moderate income housing assistance 
from
the city we choose to live in (most of us qualify), any kinds of grants or 
low-interest
loans we can finagle.  We have some good finaglers in our group, particularly
Victor Raymond, who works with housing groups and community councils in
the metro area, and Rob Ihinger (an "associate" member, possible future 
resident),
a lawyer.

Being forced by circumstances to give up on the school site was a major setback
for us, from which we have only recently begun to recover our momentum.
The experience has made us more cautious, and several members of our group keep
reminding us not to pin all our hopes on the "Utility Building" site that Fred 
referred
to.  We are trying to keep our planning generalized at this point until we have 
finally
decided on a site, and are continuing to investigate other sites.

I favor a bare-land site where we can build what we want and the costs are
known in advance; others in the group prefer an existing structure.  The Utility
Building seems to be a good compromise between the two, since it is a sound 
structure
with no interior supporting walls.  There are big concrete columns that we would
have to build around, but basically we can put our walls wherever we want and
move them around at our convenience (useful for S-rooms!).  We would not
purchase the entire building -- it is too large for our needs.  We figure we'd 
want
the top 4 or 5 of the 12 floors (Fred said it's a 9 story building but in fact 
there's
a lot of it underground).  There would probably be commercial development
and other residential on the other floors, probably under the aegis of a single 
developer
selected by the city, with whom we would have to deal.

There has been some debate relating to this site about how we could do cohousing
in it, since it differs from the sorts of communities described in McCamant
and Durrett in that it is essentially vertical, discouraging interaction by 
allowing people
to take the elevator directly to their floor and not walk by anyone else's unit.
Some things that have been suggested to alleviate this: we could create a
multi-floor atrium in the center of the floor.  We could have a single entry via
express elevator into a common area, from which people would have to take a
separate elevator to their floors (probably impractical due to cost).  We could
scatter common facilities (lounges, workshops, etc) around the various floors,
giving people a reason to visit other floors during their everyday business.

We seem to be picking up momentum -- some of our members who seemed to
have lost interest before are back in force, and there's a lot of activity 
going on.
We'll continue to give updates as things develop.  At some point we will begin
seeking new members to fill out the numbers we have decided we want.

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