Re: [C-L] Do you really need a developer?
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 18:27:12 -0700 (MST)

I haven't contributed much but I can't let James' comments pass without a response.

There are cohousing groups in this country who've built their projects it without a developer. And more that have done it with a developer. (There are even developer driven projects). Virtually every group that decides to go it without a developer wishes they had done otherwise. Usually they reject a developer because they don't see why he or she should get money for doing whatever it is they do. But in the end, groups that work with a developer--as well as those who use cohousing professionals (at least as consultants if not directly working with them)--find that these professionals save the group considerably more money than their services cost.

Then there's the small matter of construction financing. Given that most cohousing groups don't have a single member who is a real estate professionals, the acquisition of construction financing is way beyond their capabilities.

I know of two projects that were self-developed, where the residents feel fine about it. Both of these groups hired very strong project managers. Almost without exception, however, all the other groups that tried to do without a developer devoutly wish that they had done otherwise!

I'm curious to know, James, if you are working or have worked with a cohousing group. If so, I'd like to know how you experienced them as a client? I'm asking for some insight into your experience working for a cohousing group. But I'm also interested to know if your suggestion that a group might not really need a developer is based on observation of a particular situation or is it hypothetical?

Joani Blank
Swan's Market Cohousing.
Oakland, CA
Member, Board of Directors
The Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US)

I also wonder if you really need a developer. As an architect, most projects I do are done directly with the client. We work out the plans together. The architect does the working drawings (detailed drawings with all the details required for construction) and specifications. The client (you) follows the process and must agree to all details as the drawings are produced. Then we put the working drawings and specifications (called the contract documents at this point) out for tender and contractors submit bids. The architect analyses the bids and submits his analysis and recommended contractor to the client. If you agree, you then sign a contract with the contractor. The architect reviews construction as it proceeds to ensure that the project is built exactly as per the approved drawings. This process assures the best price and is standard in the industry. There are other wrinkles but this is the basic idea and its very simple, assures that the client (you) has a say in the project at all stages. Sometimes the client will hire a project manager who then hires the architect, but this is a more involved process and is usually only warranted for very large and complex projects (say over ten million dollars.) I hope this helps. I'd be interested to hear from others who used a developer, as to why they used a developer, what the developer did, and if it was worthwhile.

James Kacki
James Kacki-Architect & Planner Inc.

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