management services vs self-management for cohousing development
From: Thomas Lofft (
Date: Fri, 8 May 2015 22:06:49 -0700 (PDT)
There are so many redefinitions being postulated, I'll offer a professional 
"Development requires the ability to envision new projects and the perseverance 
and aptitude to actually get them built"The role of the developer is to 
orchestrate the entire development process from start to finish. Developers can 
be one individual outsourcing all the work to third parties, or a large firm 
which handles everything in house. Either way, the developer must have 
knowledge of nearly every process, phase and service involved, including site 
selection, market analysis, finance, construction, leasing, and sales - and it 
doesn't hurt to have legal and transactional skills to handle the contracts and 
liability concerns present in development projects. Development is a dynamic 
business field with a steep learning curve. The developer is often required to 
be the first one in with equity and the last to get paid, but if the process is 
managed correctly, the payouts will be well worth the time and effort it took 
to get the development done. In the current environment where owners are more 
conscious of the bottom line, it is crucial that a developer has knowledge and 
ability to execute on nearly all of the development process.
Information on this page provided courtesy of Cornell University Baker Program 
in Real EstateTo enhance this definition from my own professional experience, 
there is a big difference between a "Developer" who invests financial equity;
and a "Development Manager" who typically manages the process without investing 
much, if any, financial equity. 
At Liberty Village, MD, we self developed, starting with a visionary who read 
Chuck & Katie's Book in 1988-89, shared his vision and went public with 
organizing efforts through a 3 x 5 card on the bulletin board of a community 
food co-op. 10 years later, we had explored the feasibility of a great many 
properties; enrolled in membership a community planner, a civil engineer, an 
architect, a Realtor, and 23 partner households with invested capital, all 
committed to operating in facilitated meetings and decision making by 
We had also optioned a 27 acre improved farm, rezoned the property twice, 
completed all approved site engineering, obtained limited commitments for 
public sewer & water, all to be developed at our expense, closed a loan for 
acquisition funds and acquired the property, subdivided and sold off the major 
improvements and 4 acres of the property, closed a much larger loan locally for 
development funding, and in 2 more years, started moving in. In another 5 
years, we had 18 homes built and occupied and approvals for 20 more, yet to be 
built.  We are still at that plateau, but we have a wonderful pedestrian 
community with only 8 ares developed for all 38 home sites and 15 acres of 
permanent open space in meadows, woodlands, and wetlands, next door to a 105 
acre county park that is also mostly open space as well as major active sports 
The key opportunity of self development is the organic community building 
aspects of the process. The burning souls who developed Liberty Village have 
far more invested here than their savings. But perhaps the driving force for 
our self development was frugality, not wanting to risk having any predatory 
developer compromise our vision for its own profitability.  So our major 
decision was to defer developing a new common house and invest our limited 
capital in the infrastructure for all 38 homes.  
Every community that sponsors a development must make tradeoffs. Those are in 4 
strict categories: Size, quality, schedule and budget. If you are budget 
constrained, then you have to keep the size and quality within the scale of the 
budget, or risk insolvency leading to bankruptcy. Those are the decisions that 
need to be made, not by a developer, but by the fledgling community, hopefully 
guided by ethical development professionals.  Either enroll them or hire them, 
but be sure they are part of your process.
Cheers and best wishes to all cohousers, especially to Chuck and Katie for 
their wisdom and global leadership.
Tom Lofft
Liberty Village, MD
Yes, we do have lots and homes for rent and sale.

Date: Fri, 8 May 2015 21:36:51 -0400
From: Elizabeth Magill pastorlizm [at]
Well our town is 3500 people so I wouldn't describe us as urban.  I don't know 
if we count as small when our budget was $22 million. That is for two 
communities, not one.
What do you do when you can't get water at the depth you expected and need a 
plan B for the well? 
(Should have been determined before closing on the acquisition)
Or the perc test is failed? 
(Should have been determined before closing on the acquisition)
Or there is hidden toxic trash on the left corner of property?
(Should have been determined before closing on the acquisition)
Or you discover you forgot to file the only form needed for approval?
(All requirements should have been determined in the feasibility analysis 
before closing on the acquisition)
That's the kind of stuff professionals just do, while you have to figure out.
We all believed we were great do-it-your-selfers. And we are in many ways. 
(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill
On May 7, 2015, at 8:53 AM, Jerry McIntire <jerry.mcintire [at]> 
Writing from a town of 5,000 people, where we are doing our own development 
work, my sense is that the more urban and the larger the project, the more 
helpful or necessary hiring a professional management team would be.
Here in rural Wisconsin where we have no zoning, no minimum house size, and 
plenty of do-it-yourselfers, we purchased the land on our own and are running 
the project ourselves. We will hire professionals: a permaculture designer for 
our site plan, a master plumber for our sanitary systems, an engineer to draw 
our plans, a real estate attorney, and an architect or design/build team for 
our common house.
Jerry McIntire
Stone's Throw Ecovillage, in the heart of Wisconsin's beautiful Driftless region

On Tue, May 5, 2015 at 11:59 PM, Allison tom <allison.tom [at]> wrote:
Thanks, John, yes, this is what I am referring to and this kind of company does 
exist here!

On May 5, 2015, at 9:24 PM, John Carver <jcarver [at]> wrote:
I believe Allison is referring to what's called a project manager, one who 
oversees the project but is not the developer.
Allison, we're just across the water in Nanaimo at Pacific Gardens Cohousing. 
Our group hired an administrator to handle the business side, a project manager 
to oversee the building construction and a construction company to assemble the 
contracts to do the actual building. We created a numbered company to be the 
developer, so the developer was us. That is, through the numbered company we 
bought the land, did the hiring, applied for the rezoning and permits, arranged 
the financing, filed with land titles then sold the properties to the 

Unfortunately none of the above, including the architects, were cohousing 
experienced, and our little clutch of would-be cohousers were not development 
experienced, which made for a rough learning pathway. Mistakes were made, some 
of them quite costly. That said, I think I can say we are generally happy with 
the result, but most would agree we would have done better with the right 
professionals.  Being in Vancouver you have access to good experienced resource 
Reach out to the other cohousing groups in the area for their suggestions.
John Carver
Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, Nanaimo, BC
(Yes, we do have units for sale.)
 On 05/05/2015 6:44 PM, Katie Henry wrote:
On Cohousing-L, the person who handles land acquisition and construction is 
normally referred to as the developer. A management company is an entity that 
manages the facility after construction is finished and the community members 
have moved in (paying bills, performing maintenance, etc.). The terms may be 
different in Canada, but you'll have better luck in the coho-l archives using 
the term "developer."
Katie Henry
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