From: Robert Ferre (
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 1998 23:31:16 -0600
Greetings all,

Many thanks to those who responded to me personally regarding my previous
posting, in which I asked if anyone else had bought first and developed
later, especially a large and expensive piece of property. (Bob Sandlin, I
received seven responses, although they weren't posted for the whole group.
Perhaps there are a lot of person-to-person exchanges.) Everyone advised
that a $35,000 up front cost (to buy the $800,000 property for all cash)
would greatly limit the number of potential community members. However, we
are proceeding, for several reasons:

1) Previous groups in St. Louis have disbanded after meeting, in some cases,
for years, because they couldn't find and/or settle on a particular site. By
having our site, we can be very specific about where we will be, what we
will do, and what it will cost.

2) The property is unique and absolutely gorgeous. It is a self-contained
hollow with ridges along either side, two lakes at one end, a large common
house (almost 5,000 sq. ft. of usable space, three porches, swimming pool,
hot tub, and screend in "summer kitchen") in the center of the property.
Adjacent to the common house is a long, south-facing hill where we expect to
build solar energy homes. The other five houses on the property can be
rented for income during the early stages (to group members, perhaps, prior
to building their new homes) and eventually turned into offices, classrooms,
or cottage industries. This is like getting a "jump start" on the community,
with a well-arranged mix of cleared areas and dense woods (oaks and other
hardwoods, pine, cedar). Properties like this don't come along very often.

3)  The property will sell the community. So far, everyone who has seen it
has fallen in love with it immediately. This is a valuable recruitment tool.
Eventually, when we are built out, I can see that we will be very pictureque
and photogenic, will get coverage from a lot of media, will be a thriving
community with a waiting list.

4)  Although the property is expensive, priced at the very top of the
market, the area is west of St. Louis in the direction of expansion. The
county just revised their zoning laws in anticipation of continued
development and growth. Whereas property values in St. Louis appreciate very
slowly, the land costs around this property have doubled in the last ten
years, and still have a long way to go. (I calculate the cost of the
property as being $3,000 per acre for the 131 acres, $300,000 for the
buildings, pool, lakes, and improvements, and about an $80,000 premium just
because it is beautiful and unique. Suppose we spend $100,000 too much. With
25 households living here for decades, the cost becomes a non-issue. It is
like surrendering two or three years' appreciation to the seller.

5)  Our first public meeting was called with only a week's notice, through a
mailing and placing some posters around. It attracted a roomful of people,
including several very likely candidates, some of whom previously attended
other cohousing meetings. We are pleased with such a good start, and are
turning up our recruitment publicity. Besides being cohousing, we are also
including another important theme. We are seeking people who give high
importance to their spiritual. We have no particular dogma in mind. Some
have mystical Christian leanings, others are more generic forms of
spirituality. The point is, we want people who have done some "work" on
themselves, so we aren't starting at ground zero with issues about fear and
scarcity and defensiveness and competition. One person at the public meeting
expressed that he was an atheist, which wasn't necessarily a
disqualification. He could be just as spiritually oriented as the rest of
us, by a different name. We now have five or six pretty definite households
with two or three wanting to join in the near future, but not quite yet. OK,
so they all look like us: white, middle class, with a certain amount of
financial resources available. We seek diversity as much as anyone else (the
SUSTAIN-L list has been talking about rich and poor), although that may be
in Phase II, due to the realities of this particular situation. I now am
very optimistic that we will find quite a few households in a short period
of time. There seems to be a hunger for a community with a spiritual bent.
At 9:30 every evening we all meditate and make it clear to the universe what
we are doing, inviting all of the appropriate people to find us, welcoming
all forms of guidance and support. Our motto is, "Let it be easy."

So, we would like to put out the word to all of you regarding our community.
When we have the property purchased, we will likely adopt the existing name
of the property as that of the community. For now, we just refer to
ourselves as forming a Conscious Community. We have two levels of
participation. LEVEL I: For $100 one-time contribution, you can become part
of the core group, which makes its decisions following the concensus
paradigm. You can be involved in the planning and designing of this budding
community. When we close on the land, the core group will then invest
$35,000 per household. (This includes $50,000 for legal, planning,
surveying, rezoning, etc.) Some have more resources available, and may lend
it to those that don't have that much. It won't be, as you can see,
following the "low income" model. Yet, when all is said and done, one might
pay $35,000 for the intial land, $10,000 in development costs, and $75,000
to $100,00 for home construction. That barely exceeds the median price of a
home in St. Louis, and wouldn't buy a garage in many West Coast locations.

LVEEL II. For $10, you can become one of those who are very interested in
the community, want to be on the mailing list and be included in the public
events. This group has no vote, but is welcomed to give input and
suggestions. Many of these may move into the core group at a later date. We
envision closing on the land by summer, proceeding directly into community
outreach, development, and planning, building our first units in 1999. One
can be a fully invested community member and not build right away. Someone
retiring in a few years, for example, could buy in now to be assured a
place, but build later. We anticipate having guest rooms in the common
building for unhoused community members. We have not yet made the decision
about architectural conformity or everyone-do-your-own-thing.

Now that you are all up to date, let me ask one question. Through this list
and other Internet materials I have identified folks who are experienced in
various aspects of planning cohousing communities, whether it be the design
or the construction or the architecture or the ecological aspects. It seems
to me that working from a considerable distance would have serious
drawbacks, such as cost of travel, unfamiliarity with this area, etc. So, I
would love to hear about your experience in using nationally-recognized and
experienced cohousing planners versus training local people to do the job.
Whew. This was a long one. Thanks for your time and your input. We welcome
you to join us in meditation any evening at 9:30 p.m. central time in
support of this project.

Best wishes,

Robert Ferre

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