the "early years"
From: Blaise J. Tobia (
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 1995 11:45:36 -0500
Some of the posts by the Broward Commons group and the Cantines Island 
group, about the difficulties related to small group size, and the 
tension between group-building and site identification, resonate with me 
because of the experiences of our own fledgling core groups in the 
Philadelphia area. We watched one group grow to considerable size 
primarily because of the attractiveness of their site (many of the 
benefits of a suburban/rural site, but quite close-in within the city) 
only to fragment when the site could not be obtained. My own 
retrofit-interested core group is probably going to lose a wonderful, and 
relatively cheap, urban site practically ready-to-go for a group of 
fifteen households because we haven't been able to grow to our 
self-imposed minimum committed membership of ten households, despite more 
than a year of trying. Another core group has reformed after their 
initial site was sold (and after their leader, a visionary architect, got 
ill and died). They are struggling to reach a critical mass.
When a group is small, all of the various dynamics become amplified. 
Depression can spread to everyone almost immediately, sapping energy. One 
disruptive or problematic member can split the already too-small group 
even further, or hinder recruitment.
As others have said, and I have said as well, Philadelphia seems like a 
particularly difficult "market" for cohousing, for a number of reasons. 
Apparently Broward County and upstate N.Y. may be similar places. Is it 
actually different on the West Coast, or in New England? Did early 
meetings in these places bring out dozens (if not hundreds) or people? 
Were successful groups able to move into double-digit membership 
relatively quickly? Have any still-existing (and currently growing or 
succesfully moved-in) groups gone through a fairly long period of stasis 
before catching on? Has there been an imbalance in terms of a high 
proportion of older, single people being interested, and a scarcity of 
families with children (such as is our experience)?
I hope that some list members will share their experiences of the "early 
days" (which I would define as prior to having ten committed households). 
It would be of great help to us.
Blaise Tobia     Philadelphia, PA    215-387-9706    tobiabj [at]
- artist/photographer/teacher (at Drexel University's College of Design Arts)
- interested in CoHousing personally, politically and artistically
- serving as contact person for the Delaware Valley CoHousing Association,
   an umbrella group encompassing several potential site-development 
   one, urban-retrofit (Germantown/Mt. Airy)
   three, new-construction ( Lambertville, still in early stage; Shawmont and
   Ambler, still just good ideas)

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