Church Conversion Retrofit Cohousing Panel for National Conference in NC
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Sun, 9 Nov 2014 17:29:30 -0800 (PST)

This is an interesting case that would have tested the definitions of
cohousing when some defined it as having to have the community designed by
its members.  N Street didn't fit that definition so some said we were a
cohousing community until we design our new common house.  Retrofitting an
old building into a somewhat inferior common house wasn't adequate to meet
the "designed by members" part of the definition.

Now I believe the cohousing community sees that cohousing doesn't need to
have the members involved in the community design but instead the focus is
more on self rule and members sharing key things, like cooking together,
ideally in a common kitchen (though even that should be requirement or we
will prevent numerous small N St style retrofit communities from calling
themselves "cohousing" as they dream to expand in time line N Street did
and one day have their own common house.

I think you should be able to call your community a cohousing community
even if you only start with the seven houses and the rest of the houses are
bought by people who don't want to be members of the community. See if the
owner will allow the group to have options or first rights of refusal to
buy and lease any houses in the community.  Then have potential members
from a waiting list buy or lease them as they become available over the
next 5-20 years and eventually, with patience and persistence, all the
homes will likely become part of the community, likely with numerous
rentals like the ones N Street has and benefits from.

If this longer term, add-member-households-over-time-to a
repurposed-set-of-buildings scenario resulted in a cohousing community, you
could call yourselves a retrofit retrofit community.

Good luck. Sounds like a great idea very much worth pursuing.

N Street Cohousing member

On Sat, Nov 8, 2014 at 8:23 PM, abigail weinberg via Cohousing-L <
cohousing-l [at]> wrote:

> My Name is Abby Weinberg and I am working on retrofitting a church into 20
> cohousing condos in Philadelphia for Wissahickon Village Cohousing (WVC).
> I am very new to this game and hardly an expert, but would be happy to
> offer my experience to the greater good at the conference.  I really look
> forward to meeting many of you at the conference!
> Also, the model my group is using is a bit different that how I understand
> traditional cohousing development to go.  We are working with a developer
> who was planning to retrofit a church into condos before he ever met us.
> We think that the developer decided to contact us because the church has a
> pre-existing industrial kitchen and "cafetorium" on the lower level which
> he recognized might be good for cohousing.  Since the church is in an
> excellent location AND because the developer was going to assume all of the
> financial risk of development, our group decided to try and work with him.
> We have been meeting for over a year with him and he just got zoning
> approval and will be closing on the purchase of the church next week.  He
> has a agreed to let our group have exclusive right of sale (i.e. - try to
> sell all units to cohousing-minded people) for 6 months *IF* we buy 7 units
> in the first 30 days of sales.
> The Pros include: We only put in money when we buy our units and we have a
> real developer doing all the hard development work that we don't really
> have to pay until we purchase a unit.
> The Cons include: We give up a lot of control - especially over design...
> Although he has been very receptive and generous with his time, the
> developer is clear that whatever he builds needs to be marketable beyond
> the cohousing market in case we can't sell all the units and he needs to
> see the remaining units to "civilians."
> There is more to the story, but hopefully you get the idea. I am curious
> to know whether this is as novel a way of doing cohousing as I think it is,
> or if other communities got built this way.
> Appreciatively,
> Abby
> Abigail Weinberg
> Community Coordinator,
> Wissahickon Village Cohousing
> Home: 215-842-0268  Cell: 734-474-6958
> abbyweinberg [at]
> Cohousing: Building a better society, one house at a time!
> ________________________________
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:30:35 -0800
> From: Jane Calbreath <jane.calbreath [at]>
> To: <cohousing-l [at]>
> Subject: [C-L]_ Retrofit Cohousing Panel for National Conference in NC
> Message-ID: <D081449B.DDB7%jane.calbreath [at]>
> Content-Type: text/plain;    charset="ISO-8859-1"
> Dear Cohousers:
> I am a Coho US board representative serving on the conference committee for
> next year?s CohoUS National Conference taking place in Durham, North
> Carolina in May 2015. We have scheduled a panel session on ?Retrofited
> Cohousing? and I am  interested in connecting with cohousers from existing
> retrofit communities to participate on our panel. We are specifically
> interested in people who are located in the eastern part of the US, and
> feel
> free to contact me if you are interested or have a recommendation of
> someone
> who would be a good spokesperson for this presentation. Kevin Wolf from N
> St. Cohousing in Davis, CA has already agreed to be part of the panel. We
> would like to cover the legal issues and the process that are involved.
> Thank you in advance,
> Jane Calbreath
> California Rep
> Board Member
> _________________________________________________________________
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