Re: Re: co-housing v.s. old-fashioned neighborliness
From: JoycePlath (
Date: Tue, 26 May 1998 17:45:22 -0500
Marsh Commons in Arcata,Ca.  is another CoHousing development that used an
urban infill strategy.  We built on the site of an old truck shop next to what
was once the dump ( now a world famous wild life sanctuary and marsh adjacent
to Humboldt Bay).  Those of us who bought the land and the old building
(rehabed into our common house) had great enthusiasm about reuse of land,
walking the marsh trails as well as the opportunity to walk to the center of
town, and enjoying views that were protected to our south and west.  The  sad
lesson we learned was that such land can have polution problems even when
there is and engineering report saying everything is just fine.  More to the
point for this discussion is the difficulty we had selling the concept of
living in what was perceived as the wrong side of the tracks.  
For many people the idea of the mobile home park to the north and the funky
commercial/industrial establishments across the street to the east were too
much.  It was difficult to see our site as anything but the gravel parking lot
it had been for thirty years.  As we near completion of our first eight houses
it is becoming easier for interested folks to see what we envisioned in 1992.
Only two houses are still for sale.
One of the risks all of us who are joining Marsh Commons are taking is the
purchase of homes in the $120000 to $185000
range in a neighborhood that has no other housing worth more that $90000.
Some of us think that our area will gradually change, partially because we
will have started a trend.  I am going so far as to invest the profits from my
current home into a sorry group of rental units just up the street from Marsh
Commons.  With a little luck I will find the funds to rehap a garage there
into a small common space, rip out the concrete between the apartments, and
make a place that is far more neighborly.  If I were just interested in making
money on my investment, however, it  would make much more sense to invest in a
new ugly four plex in another part of the city. 
I think what I am trying to say  is that using existing property within an
urban setting has its risks.  A site that takes imagination to visualize and
has some location drawbacks to those who want to live in a quite, beautiful
location, removed from stress.  It is a much harder sell.
Having said all that , yes I would do it again.  Watching our houses rise is
one of the great satisfactions of my life, second , I hope, to the pleasure of
living there.   

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