Re: Retrofit Cohousing Panel for National Conference in NC
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Sun, 9 Nov 2014 05:55:26 -0800 (PST)
The important part about the cohousing development process is that a core group 
of founders convenes, and develops strong interpersonal bonds and process 
skills, while making the design choices and solving the development problems.  
Secondarily, early involvement of founders helps ensure that the design outcome 
is tailored to the aspirations and priorities of that specific group.

So:  What about renovation versus new construction, or early engagement with 
architects, contractors and developers (and bankers, and building inspectors, 
and …) whose interests are not identical with those of the intended occupants?  
My answer would be: Finding a suitable site and getting it developed, or 
re-developed, is very hard work — and inevitably involves the participation or 
even constraints of parties who have no intention of living in the community 
once it’s built.  Whether you like it or not, your project will be influenced, 
and possibly even compromised, by “outsiders”.  That’s just the nature of 
building things.

I can see no fatal flaw in co-developing with an professional — although you 
may want to have access to some independent experts advising you on design 
alternatives, construction costs, and the like.  I am aware of one or two cohos 
that were designed and built by a developer who was doing the project mostly on 
spec, hoping that a communitarian group would show up later … but I’m not 
convinced this actually creates cohousing.  You can lead a horse to the common 
house, but you can’t make him consense.


> On Nov 8, 2014, at 11:23 PM, abigail weinberg via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:
> My Name is Abby Weinberg and I am working on retrofitting a church into 20 
> cohousing condos in Philadelphia for Wissahickon Village Cohousing (WVC).  I 
> am very new to this game and hardly an expert, but would be happy to offer my 
> experience to the greater good at the conference.  I really look forward to 
> meeting many of you at the conference! 
> Also, the model my group is using is a bit different that how I understand 
> traditional cohousing development to go.  We are working with a developer who 
> was planning to retrofit a church into condos before he ever met us.  We 
> think that the developer decided to contact us because the church has a 
> pre-existing industrial kitchen and "cafetorium" on the lower level which he 
> recognized might be good for cohousing.  Since the church is in an excellent 
> location AND because the developer was going to assume all of the financial 
> risk of development, our group decided to try and work with him.  We have 
> been meeting for over a year with him and he just got zoning approval and 
> will be closing on the purchase of the church next week.  He has a agreed to 
> let our group have exclusive right of sale (i.e. - try to sell all units to 
> cohousing-minded people) for 6 months *IF* we buy 7 units in the first 30 
> days of sales.
> The Pros include: We only put in money when we buy our units and we have a 
> real developer doing all the hard development work that we don't really have 
> to pay until we purchase a unit. 
> The Cons include: We give up a lot of control - especially over design... 
> Although he has been very receptive and generous with his time, the developer 
> is clear that whatever he builds needs to be marketable beyond the cohousing 
> market in case we can't sell all the units and he needs to see the remaining 
> units to "civilians." 
> There is more to the story, but hopefully you get the idea. I am curious to 
> know whether this is as novel a way of doing cohousing as I think it is, or 
> if other communities got built this way.
> Appreciatively,
> Abby
> Abigail Weinberg
> Community Coordinator,
> Wissahickon Village Cohousing
> Home: 215-842-0268  Cell: 734-474-6958  
> abbyweinberg [at]
> Cohousing: Building a better society, one house at a time!
> ________________________________
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:30:35 -0800
> From: Jane Calbreath <jane.calbreath [at]>
> To: <cohousing-l [at]>
> Subject: [C-L]_ Retrofit Cohousing Panel for National Conference in NC
> Message-ID: <D081449B.DDB7%jane.calbreath [at]>
> Content-Type: text/plain;    charset="ISO-8859-1"
> Dear Cohousers:
> I am a Coho US board representative serving on the conference committee for
> next year?s CohoUS National Conference taking place in Durham, North
> Carolina in May 2015. We have scheduled a panel session on ?Retrofited
> Cohousing? and I am  interested in connecting with cohousers from existing
> retrofit communities to participate on our panel. We are specifically
> interested in people who are located in the eastern part of the US, and feel
> free to contact me if you are interested or have a recommendation of someone
> who would be a good spokesperson for this presentation. Kevin Wolf from N
> St. Cohousing in Davis, CA has already agreed to be part of the panel. We
> would like to cover the legal issues and the process that are involved.
> Thank you in advance,
> Jane Calbreath
> California Rep
> Board Member
> _________________________________________________________________
> Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.