Re: catch 22 - finding right site or identifying group values?
From: PattyMara Gourley (
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 11:23:22 -0800 (PST)
Tierra Nueva (central CA coast) looked for land, and found it, with a
general set of values.  The early founding group in 1989 set their compass
on the emerging cohousing vision of Chuck and Katie (clustered houses,
pedestrian community, shared commons, consensus decision making).  Then, due
to the particulars of the land that we found, we had many challenges to
implementing the vision.  We succeeded, at additional cost of both time and

Your group seems to need to see a completed design, AND not pay for detailed
plans ("They are working from a financially conservative position of not
wanting to spend any money on any services (architectural or otherwise) that
might not be applicable to their final purchase/development.") I can
see the reasoning for wanting to find land first, then work on a design
suited for that particular location.

Our site had so many interesting restrictions (long story) that it became
quite necessary to design for it (start from scratch sort of, many times.  I
see the value of finding land first, in case there are particulars that must
be addressed to suit that spot, especially in these economic times.

Prioritizing values is important of course, and it is always difficult to do
so when the founding group of eight needs to consider the unknowns of their
completed circle of residents.  It's a crap shoot.  Our core group was
comfortable with voluntary simplicity (several families had no need for
garages)...and so we designed a site with a limited number of garages and
carports to support our value of shared open space.  While sounding great
then, we did not anticipate that the rest of the community who bought in
closer to build-out/move-in who were VERY invested in having a garage, and
quite disappointed that none were available for them.  Ahem.

It was a lesson learned for us, too late really to actually implement the
needs of our latecoming residents, but something that does have to be
addressed with new groups forming. (and with every long term decision we
make now:  how does this affect the next generation?)  Clear vision/values,
communicated well with prospective members helps greatly, but so does
working with a design program that works for the land available and also
allows for the needs of folks who haven't arrived yet.  Ah, wouldn't it be
easier if we had that crystal ball?

Tierra Nueva

On Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 10:37 AM, Diane <dianeclaire [at]> wrote:

> Hi Grace,
> I'm not sure Cambridge Cohousing is applicable.   We are urban; our size
> was
> dictated by our lot.  What we knew we wanted (as our vision statement says)
> is a community in Cambridge.   We are, I think, too big (41 units).  Most
> of
> our outdoor space is held in common (and there are those among us who wish
> all of it were).  We've got 12 townhouses; 12 stacked flats and 17 units in
> the common house ranging in size from studios to four bedroom townhouses.
> Not sure what else to say unless you ask for something more precise.
> Diane
> On Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 12:23 PM, Grace Kim <grace [at]
> >wrote:
> >
> > We're working with a community that is in its infancy - they have 8
> > families and the intent to purchase a lot to support 8-30 units.
> >
> >
> >
> > For the past few months we've been helping them with site selection,
> > which has resulted in them realizing that their "wish list" needs to be
> > prioritized to better sync price/size/expectations.  While they don't
> > mind having more units (30 vs. 8), the idea of higher density (stacked
> > flats and townhouses vs. sgl family home w/ land around it) with
> > meaningful open/green space (i.e., useable roof community/kid space) is
> > one that they can't envision in an urban setting.  We've shown them
> > images of other projects but I think they really want to see a completed
> > design (which would arrive from a more interactive process).
> >
> >
> >
> > They are working from a financially conservative position of not wanting
> > to spend any money on any services (architectural or otherwise) that
> > might not be applicable to their final purchase/development.  They are
> > feeling like they need to find a site before they do anything else, but
> > we are encouraging them to prioritize their values (to help evaluate
> > whether prospective properties truly fit their needs.)
> >
> >
> >
> > Does anyone have a story to share about how your community addressed
> > similar concerns in the early stages of your development process?
> >
> >
> >
> > grace h kim aia, architect & cofounder
> >
> > schemata workshop | empowering communities through architecture
> >
> > 1720 12th ave #3  seattle wa 98122  v 206 285 1589
> >
> > <>
> >
> >
> >
> > Recipient of 2009 Mayor's Small Business Award
> >
> >
> >
> > _________________________________________________________________
> > Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> --
> Diane Margolis
> 175 Richdale Av.
> Cambridge, MA 02140
> 617 354 1349
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