RE: SELF DEVELOPMENT VS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPER
From: MerylD (MerylDaol.com)
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 05:43:33 -0700 (PDT)
 Hi all:
South Florida cohousing in Delray, Florida, recently went belly-up, and the 
reason was the professional developer the group has been working with for 
several years. So for anyone who thinks a professional developer is a panacea, 
be 
advised that this was not the case for us, despite our initial hopes and 
excitement.

After an earlier attempt at self-development went under after years of work 
and countless thousands of dollars, the group that re-formed decided there was 
no way we were going to go forward if it meant putting more of our own money 
on the line. We eventually found a very experienced local developer who 
specialized in small, niche projects and seemed very interested in cohousing, 
and was 
willing to act like a traditional developer (i.e., front all the money and 
make his profit from the sale of the units). After a year in which he educated 
himself about cohousing took very little action, he eventually decided to 
purchase the property from one of our members (the same site where the original 
group planned to develop) and create the cohousing community we dreamed of.

Over the past three years the developer worked closely with us to design the 
site plan, floor plans and the 3000-sq-ft common house (he even agreed to meet 
with a fung shui expert per the request of one of our members). The plans 
were fabulous and just what we asked for, and the projected prices reasonable 
for 
the area. We seemed to have found the perfect situation for creating 
cohousing without having to expend our own money.

The developer had told us that approvals would take less than a year. But 
despite his supposed expertise and his many resources, that process actually 
ended up taking nearly two years, costing us members of the group who burnt out 
and moved on (don't forget, some in this group had already been waiting years 
and years for a project to happen). I'm not sure why there was such a delay and 
whether, had we self-developed, we would have been able to move faster, but 
two years is a very long time for a project that had already, in a slightly 
different but not radically different form, had already been approved by the 
county commission and others. 

But two months ago came the worst part of working with a professional 
developer, giving clear meaning to that old saw about the Golden Rule--he who 
has the 
gold makes the rules. The developer first declared that members should come 
to his sales representative and sign the contract for their unit, but he 
declined to let members review the contract in advance. After an uproar from 
group 
members who wanted to allow their attorneys to review the contract before 
signing, he did reneg on that decree. But a few days later, after he got some 
bids 
back from subcontractors that were much higher than expected due to a concrete 
shortage in Florida--a material all houses are made from here--he 
unilaterally declared that he was rescinding his reservation agreements with 
group 
members, and that prices would be dramatically increased. Whether that is legal 
or 
not is still being discussed by group members, but in any event we all became 
very clear that this is not a developer we can trust.
It wasn't even so much the increase in price; had the developer come to the 
group and said, the bids are extremely high and I want to show you my proforma 
and work with the group to see how we can still make this project feasible, 
which may entail raising prices, I know I for one would have happily agreed. 
But 
by declaring that despite his own written agreement locking in a unit at a 
given price, he would not honor his pricing commitment, his actions led group 
members to lose our confidence that he would build the quality houses he has 
promised. A relationship with any builder must be based on trust, that the 
plans 
that look so great on paper will translate into a home that his as wonderful 
to live in, and his actions caused us to lose that trust completely.

So group members decided with very heavy hearts not to go forward with the 
project. After 10 years of effort, South Florida remains without a cohousing 
community. (The developer still owns the land, and says he still plans to move 
forward with our site plan, but it will not be a cohousing community.)

I would like to say our situation is a lesson that a group must check out any 
potential developer carefully, but we did so when we first hooked up with 
this company, and years of meeting with its president gave us no indication of 
what was to come. If a developer is planning to live in the community (which 
ours was not), perhaps you can feel surer that he will act with integrity and 
your best interest at heart. But otherwise all I can say is to not fall into 
the 
trap of believing that if you get a professional developer onboard, all your 
prayers will be answered.

Love & light-
Meryl Davids
of the now defunct Emerald Place cohousing
Delray Beach, Florida



> >Hi
> >Just had a long talk with a coho developer about the pitfalls of
> >self-development of a coho community. She recommended that I ask you all if
> >you know of cohos which were self-developed (without a developer) and which
> >came in time and on budget.
> 
> 

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