Re: Church Conversion Retrofit Cohousing Panel for National Conference in NC
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Mon, 10 Nov 2014 09:42:57 -0800 (PST)
Most of the small and growing "N Street style" retrofit cohousing
communities that I know of have had no elements where they involved a
design process to create any part of their community except for the outside
yards and new paths that connected their yards together. They are making do
with building designs that was originally there.  The residents  can't
afford yet to dedicate one house to become a common house because they
can't afford it.  And many retrofit communities inherited the elements of
their houses and neighborhood design that are not the ideals of a "built"
cohousing community, and have little chance of making changes to those
elements any time soon.. Yet I hope the cohousing community isn't going to
resist letting them defining themselves as "cohousing" as they hope to some
day become more like the N Street, Temecula, or East Lansing Cohousing
communities where the residents and an architect/designer eventually can
afford to "design" together and build a common house, most likely by
repurposing an existing house on the block.

N Street Cohousing member.

On Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 4:59 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> 

> As a practicing architect, I would say that design is design.  Maybe it’s
> a modest rehab with retrofits, maybe it’s a major gut rehab.  Maybe it’s
> new construction.  Maybe it involves an architect, a contractor, or a
> developer — or, none of the above.  But somebody must make the design
> choices and decisions, and so long as that somebody is the client group
> intending to take occupancy at completion, then the project meets (part of)
> my cohousing definition.  Physical plants don’t have to be fancy and
> expensive to qualify as cohousing.
> But I repeat what I said earlier:  If the future occupants are not part of
> the design process, then the developer can still factor in a common house
> and market the project as cohousing.  But good luck to the households that
> buy in later, and live with the developer’s vision, not their own.
> > On Nov 9, 2014, at 8:29 PM, Kevin Wolf <kevinjwolf [at]> wrote:
> >
> > 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.
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