Re: management services vs self-management at the building stage
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Wed, 6 May 2015 03:27:15 -0700 (PDT)
First off … forming cohousing groups do not NEED a developer.  These groups ARE 
the developer.  That is, they are the ones risking time, money and emotional 
tranquility, trying to find a suitable property and turn it into something 
else.  The issue here is that such groups are not experienced or professional 
developers.  Mostly, they are amateur developers, doing their first, last and 
only project.  They need help.  A lot of help.

So who guides novitiates through the treacherous terrain of property 
development?  A couple of generations ago, one common answer to this question 
was … the architect.  But as the regulatory and technology context became ever 
more complex, and the divisions of labor ever more acute, the architect came to 
be seen, less as an impartial guide, and more as a self-interested party, just 
one contestant among many.  But it’s worth remembering that many cohousing 
projects include one or more architects in their founding membership.  
Sometimes they work for free, sometimes they are paid by their co-members.  
Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

In any event, in recent times, many amateur developers will hire a specialist 
consultant to help them oversee and manage their adventure.  In fact, a whole 
recognized profession is growing up around this role:  The OPR or OPM — Owner’s 
Project Representative, or Owner’s Project Manager.  This hired consultant is 
intended to take the lead in orchestrating all parts of the development 
process, like:  working through realtors to identify suitable land; finding the 
architect, engineers and general contractor; writing and/or reviewing all the 
contracts; laying out and directing the master schedule; shepherding the 
permitting; monitoring the construction process; review invoices and approving 
payments, and so on.

These OPR tasks and skills are common to all development projects.  Certainly, 
experience with cohousing is a valuable plus, but it’s not absolutely 
necessary.  On the whole, everybody’s basic skill sets — designing something 
that meets program and budget, erecting a steel frame, bargaining with the 
building inspector — are largely transferrable from housing to shopping malls 
to churches.  If you can find parties who’ve done cohousing before, great.  But 
if not, then go ahead with parties generally conversant with the basics of your 
project: housing; wood frame construction; special permit from your local 
planning board, etc.

If you cannot find an OPR/OPM you like and trust — and want to pay, as an added 
project cost — then I recommend you return to old school, and make sure you 
have an architect you can trust to help you run your project.

R Philip Dowds
175 Harvey Street, Unit 5
Cambridge, MA 02140

land:     617.354.6094
mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rpdowds [at]

> On May 5, 2015, at 11:20 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> 
> wrote:
>> On May 5, 2015, at 9:24 PM, Allison tom <allison.tom [at]> wrote:
>> No, I mean a management company who oversees the process of land 
>> acquisition, building, community formation.
> I don’t think you will find anyone who does all those things. There are 
> people like Chris Scott Hanson who manage the upfront part of land 
> acquisition but he doesn’t do building or community formation. Chris has a 
> good bit of information about the process on his site:
> Other people do design and may oversee construction. Other people (you) do 
> community formation.
> What have you read on cohousing? The Cohousing Handbook? Housing Ourselves? 
> Diana Leafe Christian’s books?
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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