Growing a Great Urban Community

We are getting a rainy reprieve on our first day in New Mexico. The change of setting and weather is letting us relax and enjoy the company of my good friend Luisa Kolker.

We are entering the final stretch of our journey before we return to Phoenix and the real work begins. We have gathered almost 16 hours worth of video, a notebook full of notes and many pictures to sort out. Our views of cohousing and the possibilities it offers has been greatly influenced by this research and it will take some time to integrate it all.

Common House

Casa Verde Commons, a little over a mile from downtown Colorado Springs, is a great example of urban infill. The 4-acre parcel used to be a family nursery that had lots of greenhouses on it. It is located in a historic neighborhood district with quaint renovated homes and tree-lined streets. The process of establishing a cohousing community here but finally a core group emerged working closely with the neighborhood association and the city to make it happen. The result is a community that blends beautifully within it’s context. You enter into the community from the street passing by a small park and walking trails and a small retail building with a community coffee shop named Dog Tooth Coffee Shop where we spent several hours blogging and meeting the locals.

We sat down with Angela, a busy mother of four to hear about Casa Verde and how her family got there. She initially learned about cohousing from members at her church and that gave the whole idea some “credibility.” Her husband then went to visit Harmony Village and came back really enthusiastic. Shortly after Angela went to a three hour meeting and felt completely the opposite, joking, “no way are we going to live with others like this.” This juxtaposition of the challenges of cohousing is not uncommon but eventually they reached consensus and have been living at Casa Verde for about 7 years, involved in the community for 11 years.

At first the community had some growing pains, but now there is a better balance with young families coming back after some older couples left for a variety of reasons. Angela commented that she found that elderly people who live in cohousing have a vitality often not found anywhere else.

When they told people that they were moving into a cohousing community she described it as the “commune of modern day” where you have your own home but you share common meals and experiences. She took us around to see several homes and a tour of the garden. The place had an almost mid-western neighborhood feel to it. Which is the feeling that cohousing wants to generate–an “old-fashioned” neighborhood where everyone knows and cares about each other.

After the interview we were invited to share in the Sunday community supper prepared by Marjorie and her partner. Marjorie is a key member in organizing the meal program touted as the “crowning jewel” among cohousing communities. It draws high participation with people waiting in line to sign up for a shift.

We were nourished by a delicious vegetarian ragout and conversations with several people willing to share their views. After dinner we headed back to the Guppy who incidentally met another Roadtrek in the coffee parking shop. I guess while the Chicks were learning about community, the Guppy was building community on her own. 🙂

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3 Responses to Growing a Great Urban Community

  1. Cynthia says:

    Hi, Girls…I hope you are not getting too tired. I am greatly enjoying the blog and have forwarded it to several friends who are also interested in following your progress. I am sensing that key components are the Community House and the Garden …and affordability. I believe that your comprehensive research is going to be invaluable. Guppy up for the home stretch.

  2. Greg Peterson says:

    Claudia and Donna,

    In a way I am jealous of your trek. I have participated in several co-housing projects here in Phoenix looking for the ‘dream’. A big piece of my desire is rooted in having a community to live in as I age – yes aargh we age. The other attraction for me is ‘crowning jewel’ community dinner every night. There is something about the bonding that goes on that I absolutely love. Are you going to have a party/presentation when you get back?

    Greg

  3. It was great to meet you and such fun to think of what might come of it!
    Pam

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