Re: Synergy & Problems in Florida
From: Marya S. Tipton (sundoggburgtimes.com)
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 21:29:55 -0700 (MST)
Thanks, Sharon, for your valuable insight. That is one of the great things
about the cohousing network. We can all learn from past mistakes and
successes.


--
Marya Tipton
Hundredfold Farm
Orrtanna, PA
A Place to Grow!
Visit our website at http://users.desupernet.com/rhubarb

----------
>From: Sharon Villines <sharonvillines [at] prodigy.net>
>To: Multiple recipients of list <cohousing-l [at] freedom2.mtn.org>
>Subject: Synergy & Problems in Florida
>Date: Wed, Feb 9, 2000, 4:59 PM
>

> I would add a few more comments about the project in Florida. The project
> did not fail from lack of enthusiasm on the part of the core group or from
> lack of focus on recruitment or lack of good intentions or lack of sheer
> effort or lack of organization.
>
> Part of the problem was life in South Florida. Real estate here is
> incredibly cheap. Since it is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the
> country there are numerous housing developments--gated communities-- going
> up everywhere. They all have clubhouses and pools, etc., which on the
> surface seem to be very similar to cohousing. Of course they aren't but its
> a  hard sell.
>
> The area is also greatly dispersed. The site was in a small town north of
> Miami with not bad but not attractive schools. Other sites were considered
> closer to Miami but they all had some difficulty or another. it was hard to
> find people who wanted to move several towns away or commute further than
> they were already commuting. And all sites would have required that.
>
> When the process extends over several years, you lose people as fast as you
> attract them. Families have to make commitments to schools systems. Growing
> families need more bedrooms _now_, not at some indefinite time in the
> future. People are transferred or take jobs out of the area. Marriages break
> up. Marriages start. Life goes on.
>
> Professionals are essential from start to finish. Experienced professionals
> with track records--people who have done it before. Synergy was dealing with
> a variety of unassociated professionals who had not worked together
> previously and didn't even consult each other when they worked on Synergy.
> The architect for example did not talk to the construction manager. Synergy
> members were doing all the back and forth. One member with construction
> experience was hired by the group to do the leg work, but ti wasn't enough.
> The architects plans were almost a year late, were turned in with many
> defects that had to be corrected, and construction costs had risen in that
> time. The architect seemed to have no sense of the costs of his additions
> and went forward with his designs even when his engineers said he would have
> to add things like steel beams, doubling the costs. He did this without
> consulting us.
>
> Other professionals charged thousands of dollars and did nothing. And
> threatened law suits if they weren't paid. After Katy and Chuck did the
> initial design workshops, the local professionals just didn't produce.
>
> Even when people contribute their time for the advantage of getting
> experience it will hold you back. Inexperience means people have to learn
> and it will take twice as long. This will cost you families/households who
> cannot wait around indefinitely--like 5 years. Households willing to buy a
> unit are worth much more than you can ever save in professional fees.
>
> Synergy was a fabulous project in concept and in design. That was also part
> of the problem. People who are interested in cohousing are also interested
> in affordable housing. Environmental and innovative designs are not cheap.
> They are less expensive down the line, but few people have the funds to pay
> for tomorrow today. The money isn't there.
>
> The difference between the Synergy experience and the Takoma Village
> experience is like night and day. Takoma has a developer who works with
> other professionals with whom he has established working relationships. He
> hasn't done cohousing before but he has done numerous multi family
> developments. He can tell the design team what will work and what won't and
> why. He has architects and construction managers he can consult in a
> telephone call. The people who work with him know they have to produce on a
> time schedule or they will not only lose this project but future ones.
>
> For example, huge savings were achieved by selling units on a general floor
> plan and not doing the expensive working drawings until most of the units
> were sold. This allowed Takoma to change the mix of units without redoing
> tens of thousands of dollars of working drawings (requiring re-engineering,
> etc.). When the two-story, two-bedroom units were not selling, they were
> changed to the two-bedroom flats people wanted. Money was not invested in
> engineering before the place was ready to be engineered.
>
> Competition in construction is very high. The margins are very narrow. Time
> is money. Professionals don't have time to spend educating and hand holding
> the inexperienced. And the inexperienced don't know what questions to ask to
> avoid problems. An experienced developer is essential. It doesn't  mean less
> work for the group--the Takoma people meet once a week in business meetings
> and at least once in committee meetings. All decisions go through the
> group--gas or real fireplaces? Open or closed kitchen? On and on. But the
> project will be built and occupied in less than two years.
>
>
> Sharon
> --
> Sharon Villines, Butler
> The MacGuffin Guide to Mystery Fiction
> http://www.macguffin.net
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington, DC
> http://www.home.earthlink.net/~takomavillag/
>
>
>
> 

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.