Re: architects and developers
From: Laura Fitch (
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 11:48:07 -0700 (MST)

At 02:59 PM 11/17/03, you wrote:

I appreciate all the feedback from my questions. Here's a bit more information:

Dearborn Commons Cohousing is in Seattle. We had an option on a site, however it has expired (long complicated mess involving a developer that wanted out of the project). The city intends to issue an RFP for both "our" site and a larger parcel across the street on December 1st. Proposals will be due January 15.

We have preliminary plans for an 18 unit building on the site. Condo style building, underground parking, with the common house and a wheel chair accessible unit also on the ground level, then two floors of units above as two towers with a common terrace in between. The units are studio, one, and two bedrooms.

We are working with a local non-profit land trust to make five of the units permanently affordable.

So far, there is one developer locally who focuses on non-traditional community based type projects that seems to be interested in working with us on our site and the site across the street. We have received proposals from two local architects.

We have a pretty good chance of being awarded the option, we know the city likes our project because of the density, low-income, and community aspects. We have already been through a favorable neighborhood review process, and there is another cohousing community (Jackson Place) across the street from our site which supports us as well.

So my original questions were: We are getting ready to hire an architect and developer. What worked for your group and what would you do differently?

We used a development consultant - worked well
We had an insider for builder with lots of multi-family affordable housing experience - worked very well We had an insider architect - worked well considering it was her first cohousing project, and one of the first cohousing projects in the country. She is now my business partner, Mary Kraus, and we live daily with the reminders of what worked well and less well.

Any input would be helpful! Also, I am particularly curious to find out the reasons groups have chosen to go with local architects and developers or ones who are more familiar with the particulars of creating cohousing.

I am biased. I say work with a local architect if you find one you like - but use an expert consultant like myself to do the programming, schematic design and review of local's work. Then you get the best of both worlds. With 18 communities behind us, we can speak with some authority about the pit falls to avoid, and the design choices that really matter. A local architect without cohousing experience may spend a lot of his/her time and yours redesigning the wheel and allowing the group process to get bogged down in little issues that do not matter in the big picture.

Have to run to a common house design workshop - ask me more if you like, Laura Fitch

Again, thanks to everyone for your input!! Karin Landsberg

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Laura E. Fitch, AIA
Kraus-Fitch Architects,
110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  o1002

413-549-7918 (fax)

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