On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Eastern Village

Last May I spent the better part of a perfect, cloudless, spring Saturday on a bus with a bunch of strangers learning about community by walking through it and asking a slew of probing and thoughtful questions.

Ann Zabaldo, the DC metro area’s cohousing guru and Takoma Village Cohousing resident, set us off with some words of wisdom: Yeah, there will be lots of cool buildings — LEED-this and geothermal-that — but don’t forget to ask the really important questions: How often does the community break bread together? How do these unique personalities manage to get along? How do they make decisions as a community? How do they govern themselves? Leave it to Ann to help you put your focus on the pulse of community life.

Though the jumping-off point of the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour was Takoma Village in northwest DC, the first cohousing community we explored was Eastern Village just a short bus ride away in Silver Spring. For those sprung on green buildings, Eastern Village’s Silver LEED status definitely sparkled the eyes. The lush courtyard and climbing plants on the street facade almost foretold of the building’s green sedum roof also shared by a play set, covered patio, bicycle storage and sand play area.

on the roof: playground and patio

green roof and a grand view

We toured several compact apartments and others that were double-height or the roomy result of combining adjacent apartments. Every level of the plant-lined courtyard seemed to allow each unit to get their fair share of natural light. Each condo also gets its economical far share of the geothermal HV/AC. While most of the condos weren’t expansive — right-sized, rather — all of them were graciously complemented by extensive shared space like a kitchen, dining and living room, workout room, children’s playroom, library, workshop, and three guest rooms. So what if your condo doesn’t have a spare guest room. I can think of a few situations (in-laws) where it would be better to have your company visit without necessarily having to share the same space for the whole live-long day.

common living room

a shared hallway library

getting things done: Eastern Village Cohousing’s task card system

sunlight from the courtyard

While consensus seemed to be a challenge with the community of more than 100 people (around 30 were in high school or below), our hosts at Eastern Village described themselves spontaneously social. Because they are so close to tons of great restaurants they tend to eat out a lot. When they do come together it’s during a weekly potluck.

common kitchen and dining room

children’s room

a lush courtyard to share

Having the vision to see this community in what was once upon a time a decrepit office building and parking lot in a blighted area takes quite a lot of faith, imagination and guts.

If Eastern Village Cohousing sounds compelling to you, last time I checked there were a few units for sale. Urban Living? Downtown Silver Spring? LEED? and Cohousing? They won’t be on the market for long.

We visited many of the DC metro area’s cohousing communities on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour. Up next in this four-part series: Liberty Village.

Part 1: Eastern Village Cohousing, Silver Spring, MD
Part 2: Liberty Village Cohousing, Libertytown, MD
Part 3: Blueberry Hill Cohousing, Vienna VA
Part 4: Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington, DC

Have you visited Eastern Village or walked by thinking it was just another urban apartment building? What did you think about it?

11 thoughts on “On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Eastern Village

    • I can’t say for sure what the initial residents or those who lives there now have in common, Mujahid, but in general people who are interested in cohousing are searching for closer community connections. Hopefully someone from Eastern Village will comment.

  1. This is a wonderful design and location populated with an engaging mix of urbanites. One of the great pluses is that it has no parking lot. Instead, it backs up to a Montgomery County owned and operated parking garage that offers spaces for monthly rental. The bonus is that there are ZipCar rentals also available and easy bus or pedestrian access to the METRO rail transit so no vehicle ownership is necessary at all.

    • I lived at EVC from 2004 until 2011 car-less but far from clue-less 🙂 because I enjoyed a multi-generation community of socially and environmentally conscious and resourceful neighbors who respect privacy while supporting a neighbor’s needs. Sunsets on the sedum-covered roof are usually a wonderfully relaxing time to end one’s day.

      • Hi, Michael. It seems that when you’ve got neighbors you enjoy there is even less need for a car. And the view from the sedum-covered roof was amazing! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Hi, I’m a resident. We have in common a desire to live in community, in a transit-accesible urban area. Most of us are also pretty progressive politically. We are a large enough community that there are distinct but non-exclusive sub groups that have more in common – parents of young children, for instance, and socially progressive jews.

  3. I agree completely with ADaken’s characterization of us above. For those interested in cohousing, it is important to know that each community seems to have its own culture and that these cultures evolve over time. I have been a resident of EVC from the beginning and was an early member during development. I have spent time in many of the other communities in this area as well. Each community has its challenges, but for me, these challenges never defined the community – i.e. they were not always present or all encompassing. There is a difference sometimes between the communitarian idealism that brings some of us into cohousing and the reality, but the reality is very good. It is nuanced and subtle at times, but very very good. Someone at Blueberry Hill often says, “A bad day in cohousing is still better than living anywhere else.”

  4. Pingback: On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Liberty Village | Good Tree Village

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