Archive for Friday, April 27, 2007

Co-housing community kicks off

Delaware St. Commons in Parade of Homes

Joey Minder, 7, and his sister Sophia, 9, stand on the balcony of a house in the Delaware Street Commons in the 1200 block of Delaware. The Commons, which will be on the Spring Parade of Homes, is the only co-housing community of its kind in the region. In the background from left are Commons residents, from left, Vicki Penner, Linda Peckham, Jennifer Distlehorst and Penner's husband, Rich Minder. The neighborhood includes 21 energy-efficient condo-style homes and a communal house, pictured at lower left.

Joey Minder, 7, and his sister Sophia, 9, stand on the balcony of a house in the Delaware Street Commons in the 1200 block of Delaware. The Commons, which will be on the Spring Parade of Homes, is the only co-housing community of its kind in the region. In the background from left are Commons residents, from left, Vicki Penner, Linda Peckham, Jennifer Distlehorst and Penner's husband, Rich Minder. The neighborhood includes 21 energy-efficient condo-style homes and a communal house, pictured at lower left.

April 27, 2007

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Joey Minder, 7, and his sister Sophia, 9, stand on the balcony of a house in the Delaware Street Commons in the 1200 block of Delaware. The Commons, which will be on the Spring Parade of Homes, is the only co-housing community of its kind in the region. In the background from left are Commons residents, from left, Vicki Penner, Linda Peckham, Jennifer Distlehorst and Penner's husband, Rich Minder. The neighborhood includes 21 energy-efficient condo-style homes and a communal house, pictured at lower left.

Joey Minder, 7, and his sister Sophia, 9, stand on the balcony of a house in the Delaware Street Commons in the 1200 block of Delaware. The Commons, which will be on the Spring Parade of Homes, is the only co-housing community of its kind in the region. In the background from left are Commons residents, from left, Vicki Penner, Linda Peckham, Jennifer Distlehorst and Penner's husband, Rich Minder. The neighborhood includes 21 energy-efficient condo-style homes and a communal house, pictured at lower left.

6News video: Spring Parade of Homes has environment-friendly feel

Lawrence area homebuilders are inviting hundreds of their neighbors over for a weekend visit during the Spring Parade of Homes. This year, many of the new housing designs focus on being more environment-friendly. Enlarge video

The planned community is no longer just a plan.

After nearly a decade of groundwork and about 10 months of construction, the members of Delaware Street Commons, a new "co-housing" community in East Lawrence, are ready to show off their homes to the public. The $3.7 million complex in the 1200 block of Delaware Street will be on display this weekend and next weekend during the annual Spring Parade of Homes sponsored by the Lawrence Home Builders Association.

Of the 45 stops on the parade, this is the only one built around ideals of communal living space, shared chores, low environmental impact and government by consensus for multiple families.

"There's nothing like this in Kansas. There's nothing like this in Missouri. The closest thing is in Colorado," said Vicki Penner, who serves as the project's membership coordinator. "In the Midwest, we're it."

So far, no one is living in the complex, but that's about to change. Penner, for example, plans to move into her home next month along with her husband, Rich Minder, and their two children.

The idea of co-housing has been around in the U.S. since the late 1980s, when it migrated from Denmark. Penner said there are two common misconceptions.

"Either people think it's a gated community that's trying to separate itself : or that it's a hippie commune, and it's all mushy and free love and all that," she said. "It's neither one of those. It's mainstream housing that's being intentional about facilitating community."

That means shared responsibility for upkeep of the grounds, shared decision-making on community matters, and group meals several times per week in a "common house" in the middle of the complex. The central house also has an exercise room, kids' playroom, message board, laundry hookups and living room with fireplace. Each home still has its own kitchen and laundry facilities.

Members of the community own their homes, which range in price from $145,000 to $240,000, and are spread out among five new townhouse-like buildings. They also own a share of the common spaces and pay monthly dues for maintenance costs.

So far, the group has sold nine of its 21 units. They need about 16 contracts total to be able to retire the construction debt.

"You're looking at a circle of amateur developers," member Jennifer Distlehorst said on Wednesday. "This is a group of friends that got together to make this happen."

Environmental architect Kirk Gastinger designed the community, which has environmentally friendly touches throughout, including heat pumps for each home, bamboo floors, energy-efficient light bulbs and structured insulated panels used in the roofs of the buildings.

By design, the parking lot sits at the edge of the property.

"We have a sense of community in the space between our homes. People are the center, and cars and other things are the periphery," Penner said.

The construction, still in its final stages, is being done by Neighbors Construction Co. Inc.

Comments

lunacydetector 7 years, 11 months ago

originated in the 1980's? charlie founded "the ranch" in 1969.

raines 7 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations Delaware Street Commons! I visited the site a couple of years ago while passing through town, and I'm delighted to see you've made it (nearly) through construction after a long planning process. I'm looking forward to the completion of the community; when your neighborhood and the St. Louis community (Metro Cohousing at Culver Way) are complete, it will be possible to drive from Boston to San Francisco and visit a cohousing community every day.

I can understand the first commenter's concerns; I had similar concerns when I first heard of the concept.

However, now that I've been part of creating one cohousing community and lived at two and visited more than 60 of the nearly 100 built in the U.S. (at least 100 more are under development), I have to say: consensus works, it delivers results.

It's not about compromise, but about finding solutions that everyone can live with, incorporating the wisdom of the entire group. Informal leadership does emerge, but the role of the facilitator is not to dominate the conversation but rather to help the group listen to one another and sometimes come up with an end result far better than anyone individually can come up with.

Rather than 'infighting', cohousing neighborhoods get training in effective communication skills and conflict resolution, so that they can respectfully agree to disagree and learn from one another. It's not about finding something that everyone agrees with, just finding a way that people feel meets needs.

In my experience, plenty of people at all income levels want to live this way; surveys have found that many people living in cohousing have advanced degrees, and while some are first-time homebuyers, others are downsizing from bigger homes, to live more sustainably through community, enjoy greater quality of life and common space per dollar spent, to slow down and appreciate the places we live and the wonderful neighbors we have.

I predict that the community will thrive; the first U.S. cohousing neighborhoods were started more than a decade and a half ago, and all that have embraced this model are still at it, watching out for their neighbors (kind of like small towns/villages of decades ago), enjoying privacy plus community, and seeing property values more than double in five years in some cases.

For more info on the national cohousing movement, see the Cohousing Association of the United States website, http://www.cohousing.org/

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 7 years, 11 months ago

The comment regarding Charlie's ranch made me laugh to the point where it nearly made coffee come out my nose. I think this community will be an asset to Lawrence. You can be sure that the residents will keep things looking nice and will be good neighbors. I know that this project was a multi-year endeavor so I'm happy for them that things are finally nearing completion.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 11 months ago

well if it workds and all get along good, but I hope they le people move out if they want. Ido not know all the ins and outs so yeas I do sound dumb.

RJ_Mettlehorst 7 years, 11 months ago

The homes at Delaware Street Commons are condominiums, just like those at Hobbs Taylor lofts. Owners can sell their homes and move at any time as they need to.

As for leadership, these people have worked for eight years to build this neighborhood. When they started, no one in this town had ever heard of such a thing, not the city, not the bankers, not the contractors. Visionary leadership was involved at every step of the way to make this happen.

Sigmund 7 years, 11 months ago

Like a Home Owners Association for the bean sprout crowd. Not only do you have to get permission on what you can do with "your" property (The Peoples Committee for Windows and Drapes, has voted to deny your request for Pella windows ....), but also personal choices (Comrade, we have reports that you drove your SUV to Walmart and bought incandescent light bulbs, come with us for another voluntary viewing of Inconvenient Truth).

It will be curious to see how much diversity is allowed in a consensus driven community.

altarego 7 years, 11 months ago

If I was a skeptic (which I'm not) I would wonder if this whole communist thing is supposed t to disguise the fact that this is an apartment complex. Apartments, condominiums, town homes, attached homes, dodecaplexes, whatever. Personally I don't see anything wrong with the term condominium except they are, like, hard to sell.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

CDBG money is great for home rehab for the unfortunate I would say. Who could deny such a fabulous contribution to society?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Thus far I like the colors that have been chosen and the energy efficiency portion will make them affordable on the long term...hats off to Delaware Commons.

Sigmund 7 years, 11 months ago

Merrill dribbles, "Who could deny such a fabulous contribution to society?"

They all look alike for god sake! I thought the complaint about development in West Lawrence was it all looked alike. And Heat Pumps are efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly? Have you seen the coal fired electric plant outside of town, its kind of hard to miss. Parking lots on the edge away from the condos? There is a nice touch late at night, in the rain, or the snow, or the heat. Group meals and a shared living room with fireplace for 21 other families, that should be quite cozy. All this can be yours for a mere $145,000 to $240,000.

But certainly it is a "contribution to society", Comrade Merrill, no doubt. But is is hardly fabulous and certainly not more a contribution as any of the development in West Lawrence.

altarego 7 years, 11 months ago

Oh, now, Settle down you naysayers! Thats not a proper welcome to a creative initiative, A1989 Danish Brilliance here. We are not just in Kansas any more. This co-op has the gentle attentions of the finest Lawencian men and their dependent families.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

Are there by laws, and a board of directors? Who determines what the association cost will be? And voluntarily committing oneself to a life by consenus with an undetermined group of people?

Somehow I forsee a conflict between the groundbreakers, the original owners, those who own the idea, and the "latecomers."

$145 to $240K, plus dues, plus you have to volunteer your time and effort to keep the place maintained?

wow.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

I walked through Delaware Commons this afternoon, and it is lovely. The floor plans are efficient and open in feeling, the ceilings are high, adding to the feeling of openness. They are small, though.

I overheard a man inquiring about buying, and the answer he got was something like, "It is like a condominium, so you have to qualify for a mortgage, and pay dues; but first you have to become an associate member so that we have time to get to know you, and if it works out, you can be approved; it's like, well, we are living together and making decisions together and we have to know that we will all get along.

The man did not look too entrhalled with that answer.

hmmmmmm.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 11 months ago

"The term "sorosity" comes to mind"............

or could that be "gorosity"? At any rate, it sounds very creepy to me. Reminds me of Jim Jones.

Sigmund 7 years, 11 months ago

Godot, I meant to get over there, but didn't have a chance, thanks for post. I liked the "and if it works out, you can be approved" comment and I look forward to the first redlining or housing discrimination lawsuit to be filed. That ought to be quite fun!!!

http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.htm

Kris_ten 7 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like this will be a community for people who choose to live here and who share common values about community, etc. For the folks who choose this, more power to them. It sounds as if it will provide more housing options. Not everyone wants to live in a house, especially as they get on in years. Certainly, it won't be for everyone!

Clearly, if these folks have been working together for almost a decade, investing their own money, and getting construction loans and morgages from banks, something IS working for them.

I am really surprised by all the angry posts. Is it just that some kinds of diversity are ok, but not others?

Jayhawk1945 7 years, 11 months ago

Congratulations to neighbors of Delaware Commons Cohousing! The new homes on your street are beautiful. The residents' intentions to use less energy with efficient home design and by sharing certain tools and space helps make not just Lawrence, but the planet (as most know now) a better place. Don't most of us mean to do "something"? These folks have put their all into it. What's "weird" about owning your home, maintaining your own finances and privacy, raising your own children, going to the same churches as everyone else? And while it's not common enough, who wouldn't be better off approaching dissent with a neighborly commitment to work out differences with everyone's voice respected? It's hard to take seriously the merry little band of jousters who've turned their pointy things toward DC for the moment -- the amount of misinformation makes clear that the commentary is all about them, not so much about the good folks at Delaware Commons. Just enjoy your new neighbors. They're fine Kansans.

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