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