Takoma Village Is One Year Old!
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 08:06:07 -0700 (MST)
It has been one year since our first phase people moved in. I was one of the
first so its my one year anniversary in cohousing.  I had to move three
times in two years to join a community that got built but that was easy
compared to the years of struggle many cohousers go through.

Takoma Village had the advantage of Ann Zabaldo who had worked on cohousing
before and had essentially devoted her life to it, and a developer who had
built multi-family dwellings and had been interested in cohousing before our
group formed. We also had members who devoted almost full-time to the
project: an architect, an electrical engineer, and an energy efficiency

But I must say, not to be bragging, that this group has moved faster than
any other I've heard about on the list. After only 9 months of having a
functioning kitchen we have meals 2-3 times a week. Yes, one is carry in
pizza and one is a pot luck and the other one is a mishmosh of cooking
class, team effort, and drop-in cooks, but we are getting there.

We have hosted neighborhood government meetings; historic district house
tours; and green architecture, bicycle path, and single mother by choice
groups. I can't count the number of birthday parties and baby showers and
housewarmings. We have a new baby. We've been through chemo, murder on the
corner, and off-site family disasters. We seem to have made it through all
the pet controversies with everyone's allergies in check.

We have multiple room renters and our first leasee, as one member went to
Greece for a year. Workshare is going well -- still not as equal as everyone
would like it to be but my own opinion is that we try to do more than our
people can sustain. Most don't even get home from work until 8-9 at night
and have many other interests as well.

Our management company dropped us before we could drop them and we are
struggling with a budget that looks like a 20-30% increase in condo fees but
they were so low before that that seems entirely reasonable to many of us.
We need a handyperson around who can tend to the day to day stuff and have
no idea where we will find one. The fire alarms work though the security
system doesn't. The hot tub plumbing still doesn't work and fills the
commonhouse basement with a serious odor.

The fireplace in the dining room works and the one in the living room
doesn't . The wooden back-splashes in the kitchen burn if you use the stove.
The acoustics will take a few more hundreds of dollars to fix but if we fill
the room with bodies, we can hear each other. There are still over 100
outstanding warranty items left from construction but we do have a list and
are checking it twice (couldn't resist), next week with our lawyer. Thus we
are still trying to get the construction completed as things are beginning
to need routine maintenance as well.

Instead of our various construction consultants we have an engineering firm
that specializes in reserve studies. The developer and contractor already
disagree with them about whether a balcony is or is not sagging. We don't
have figures yet on what we need to be saving to do things like replace
sidewalks (they do wear out) and HVAC systems.

The commonhouse looks lived in and except for the anthrax precautions next
to the mail boxes and the emergency exit maps that just went up, it feels
residential and nicely lived in. The workshop is still a storage room but
the office, the exercise room, music room and kids room are all used daily
if not several times a day. The guest rooms are well used and the system for
reserving them is working. Plants are all around and art is on the walls.
It's very clean.

We've settled down to two meetings a month -- sometimes less and sometimes
with small group discussions in between. The most productive teams still
meet weekly.

I think there are two reasons for our being up and functioning so fast --
the commonhouse was a part of the original design and was usable on the same
schedule as the units and we have a large number of people who are skilled
in process, organizing, and physical systems. One set thinks in terms of
checklists, prioritizing, and spreadsheets, and another thinks in terms of
what "feels good" meaning how people are feeling. They are good at sorting
out what we can agree to and what we can't and moving forward with everyone
pretty much intact.

It isn't easy but it is very nice and perfectly believable that we will
eventually have working systems (sump pumps have a ways to go). Since we
required a lot of systems and materials that our subcontractors had never
even heard of before, this is a miracle. The place has pretty much been
built twice. The constant refrains during the final phases were: take out
the non-environmentally acceptable stuff and put in .... No this adhesive is
NOT people safe, start over. Wrong type of light fixtures, try again.

This is very long but I'll stop. Questions welcome.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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