Re: "Non-cohousing" cohousing
From: Denise Meier and/or Michael Jacob (
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 1997 19:08:38 -0500
I have two comments. One is that I find it very ironic that having moved
to this town specifically to develop our cohousing project, I've been so
busy with cohousing meetings and other aspects of my life, that I've
barely gotten to know my present neighbors. I do at least know their
names, and have been in their houses, but considering our "commitment to
community", I think it's a sad comment on the high demands of the coho
development process that I haven't gotten any further than that. 

The other comment is that the house next door to us was recently rented by
a couple in our coho group, who moved here a few months ago from
Philadelphia in order to be closer and help with the development process. 
Of course we have a closer relationship with them than with our other
neighbors, but the limitations imposed by the physical relationship of our
two houses have been very obvious. In fact, I think if you wanted to
design 2 houses so that the neighbors would have little or nothing to do
with each other, these two would serve as a good example. It is
instructive to note what a large effect the physical factors have on the
ability to have spontaneous interactions, or even your willingness to
initiate "unspontaneous" interactions.

Denise Meier
Two Acre Wood
Sebastopol, California

On Mon, 7 Jul 1997, Bob Morrison wrote:

> On Fri, 4 Jul 1997, Russell Mawby <russ.mawby [at]> 
> wrote:
> >Subject: Re: Coho Community - when no Coho "Community"?
> >I think we develop new cohousing because of the lack of physical place that
> >most of our cities (and lives) suffer from, because we've decided that
> >investment value and curb appeal are more important in the houses we build
> >than whether or not they're part of a *real* community.
>   That's right. However, I don't think we can create a "real" community
> simply by changing our attitudes. There are, of course, cases where someone
> who is a natural leader has successfully created a sense of community in a
> neighborhood and kept it going for at least a few years. However, the design
> of most U.S. communities built since 1945 makes it more difficult to pull
> this off. One reason for building cohousing as new construction, or 
> converting 
> vacant structures to cohousing, is that we can then implement design features
> that are known to enhance community. 
>   As an example of what we are up against, consider the condo complex I live
> in. This is a 180-unit complex spread out over about 10 acres. When it was
> built 27 years ago, there was almost no consideration in the site design of
> creating a sense of community. Since it was converted to condos 12 years ago, 
> several people who were natural leaders have tried, and failed, to create a 
> sense of community. It became a vicious circle: People who valued a sense
> of community saw that it was not going to happen, left, and were replaced
> by people who didn't value this.
>   I think a large factor in this situation is that the design is working 
> against us. A design that it would be prohibitively expensive to fix. 
>   The region where I live, 30 miles northwest of Boston, is full of apart-
> ment and condo complexes built on similar designs, with a similar lack of a
> sense of community.
>   Another issue I would like to raise is, if a neighborhood does succeed in
> achieving a cohousing-like sense of community, how do they spread the word?
> If they are lucky, they can get an article in the local paper, but this
> doesn't do much good for people from out of town who are looking for such a
> place to live, or even for local people if they don't read the paper. As
> far as I know, there is no forum like Cohousing-L for spreading the word
> on places like this. So people who would like to find such a neighborhood 
> to live in have to invest huge amounts of time and energy in the search. 
> Bob Morrison
> Home: Boxboro, MA             Work: Digital Equipment Corp., Littleton, MA

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