From: Todd & Betsy (
Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 20:08:02 -0600 (MDT)
Warning: this is a long entry)
I occasionally check out the Cohousing Networks website to see what?s
new, invariably stopping in at Fred?s ?retro? section to remind myself
that cohousing is a state of mind not just new bricks and sticks built
on huge construction loans and sold with the risky promise of something
Put on your brainstorming caps for a moment while I pop up an
alternative development model.
Perhaps a standard suburban developer could be persuaded to accept an
option from a group in which the group would have the right to buy up a
cul-du-sac of say 24 lots.  The option would last for maybe 6 months to
a year and during that time would be marketed in the realm of cohousing.

Core members would buy lots at the circle end of the cul-du-sac and
would market lots beginning at that end and moving toward the connecting
street.  People who purchase would own a lot, but with the purchase they
also get the opportunity to build a possible cohousing neighborhood.
They would sign an agreement The arrangement with the developer and the
authorities permitting the development would be that as our group
reaches certain benchmarks in number of lots sold, we could exercise
variations in designs.
Ideally we would get commitments on all the lots and would convert the
lots closest to the connecting street into parking.  The next few lots
could be common buildings and denser forms of housing units, gardens and
such.  The lots closer to the end would be the family size 2,3 and 4
bedroom types.  The street could become a plaza with pavers and just
enough room for an emergency vehicle to serpentine its way to the
turnaround.  The serpentine would be created by alternating meeting
nodes, planter boxes, trees and the like on what would have been a wide
asphalt street and the turnaround might have a large shade tree planted
in the center.  Or perhaps the entire parcel could be given over to
single entity ownership (condo, coop, etc.) and design could begin from
scratch depending on how far you can push the developer and the
authority having jurisdiction.
If only half the lots sell, the group could scrape up enough to buy the
remaining lots and complete the project.  Or, if not enough sell, those
who have already committed could create their own little enclave trying
to employ principles pioneered by N-Street and described in Fred?s
?retro? section.
There are plenty of problems that come to mind for anyone familiar with
the development process.  What kind of developer would be willing to
work with that kind of arrangement ? what would it take to persuade a
developer.  And the authorities - don?t even get me started.  Normally
you have to have it all figured out before a plat is approved and
construction can begin.  Maybe they could live with having three plats
approved for that one cul-du-sac and the developer and buyers (coho
group) can determine the final version to be built.
And how would such a thing be marketed? There are some people out there
who, if they knew they would at least end up with a very marketable lot
in a place where they might even want to live, would be willing to make
the investment with hopes it may become cohousing or something that
looks like ?retrocoho.?
Maybe not.  After all, most cohousers are also looking for broader
community amenities not often found near a suburban development.  But
there may be circumstances??.
An advantage might be that a full blown developer gets some allies (like
Muir Commons) and the group might get some production construction
savings.  Investors don?t lose everything if no cohousing materializes
and they may even have the chance to move into a neighborhood with lots
of people who can think retrocoho.  Sometimes the only land available in
an area is locked up by developers or people hoping to sell to
developers.  The larger development would be improved for having
cohousing amongst it, of course, and some people want to have their
cohousing well planted among a larger neighborhood to assure a good crop
of kids to relate to.
Anyway, just a notion. I?d be grateful for some feedback.
Todd Derkacz
Member, Hilltop Cohousing
San Marcos, Texas

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