Re: Is Commonspace cohousing? [was: We're in Time!
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:56:11 -0800 (PST)
> On Nov 19, 2017, at 9:44 AM, Fred H Olson <fholson [at]> wrote:
> From the first paragraph of the article:

>> At one place in Syracuse, all of that [social interaction] happens on
>> those long snow-filled nights. That place is Commonspace, a
>> "co-housing" community on the fourth and fifth floors of a restored
>> 19th-century office building.
> Their condo complex has a number of attractive features.
> We got a tour including the party room and the courtyard.
> Our discussion naturally compared it to cohousing. They talked a bit
> about the resident group and changes over time. They mentioned the
> original two staff people who were friendly and accomodating. But
> these staff people have moved on and their replacements are more rigid
> and much less accomodating. If you don't effectively have control by
> residents, things can devolve with little recourse.

One of the reasons I resist going on the cohousing is unique bandwagon is that 
I have lived and friends and family have lived in places that had many of the 
social interactions and benefits of cohousing. In many condos people become 
very connected to neighbors and provide support than one would think. It 
requires more years of familiarity than moving into a cohousing community does. 
I remember one floor where we used to gather and talk in the hallway by the 
elevator. It was an old building and had a hallway large enough to set up 
tables and have a potluck or work a puzzle. If I had had experience of 
cohousing then, we might have tried to get permission to do it.

When one wasn’t seen for a few days, her neighbor called her daughter to check 
on her. She had died in her sleep. The neighbors who had known her for years 
helped the family with the apartment cleaning and memorial service. There were 
also a number of apts rented by NYU students, some Japanese. They consulted 
other residents with "what to do” questions and hung around when they seemed 
homesick for adults.

I do think a resident management group is important—one that has a cohousing 
bent— but having many features of cohousing in condos occurs now and could be 
encouraged. The tone of most condo common facilities is too impersonal — they 
are often "just perfect" and only the board has any say about what is in them. 
Equipment is replaced every 5 years or so. They look like showrooms more than 
used places. Too beautiful to be comfortable hanging out in.

In another condo of 4 units, the residents regularly had guests of other 
sleeping on their couches and dropping in for spontaneous potlucks or brunches. 
Another friend lives on a dead-end street of about 5 houses on large lots. They 
share facilities and tools regularly. One has a swimming pool open to everyone 
there. They run errands for each other and provide hospital runs and bed their 
guests. And carpool each other's children.

Designing for this is the unique quality of cohousing — building and populating 
with people who are committed to doing this from day one. Proximity and common 
space that can be used spontaneously is really, really helpful. Common space is 
neutral in that everyone is equal there.

Also helpful is not just that people live there with the intention of forming a 
community, but they want to live there. Many condos have people who are bitter 
about living there. They want to live in a house or not be renting. They think 
the place is too down-scale, or even to up-scale for them.

I remember one person in a Times story on building cultures quoted as saying, 
“In Manhattan, you can’t be friends with the people next door. You don’t know 
how much money they have.”

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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