On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Blueberry Hill

I know, I know: Blueberry Hill conjures up hip-gyrating images of Elvis. Or is it just me? This cohousing community is not a commune of worshipers of “The King” — at least they didn’t mention it — nor is it where Fats Domino retired from the proceeds of his biggest hit song. What may explain the name is Blueberry Hill’s location: it was built on 7 unfarmable acres of 23-acre Potomac Vegetable Farm, a certified organic farm in Vienna, VA. (A few of the owners even live in Blueberry Hill.)

It took six years of meeting two times every week to self-develop these 19 colorful homes clustered within a grove of mature trees. The houses are built around a walkable greenway made of grass block pavers that can support vehicles — like ambulances and moving trucks — that occasionally need closer access than the two peripheral parking lots afford. The houses range between 700 – 1100 square feet, but when walking through them, the open plan kitchen-dining-living room, the abundant light from numerous windows, and nine-foot ceilings give the homes a more expansive feeling. In addition, the wrap-around porches extend the living spaces outdoors. The geothermal HV/AC gives these modest units bills of no more than $75 a month.

A walkable greenway

One of Blueberry Hill’s many colorful homes.

Wrap-around porches invite neighbors to sit-n-chat.

Roomy open plan living spaces

A peek in the common house kitchen

While Chuck & Katie’s cohousing bible says build the common house first, Blueberry Hill’s common house was completed a couple of years after the last homes were finished in 2000. Even so, the common house seems to get the most use out of all the communities we visited that day, as the residents eat together 2 – 4 times a week. Not only do they eat together often, but the culinary magic happens in a relatively normal-sized kitchen. According to our guide, eating together often helps these neighbors develop good relationships so that there are less problems which can’t be quickly snuffed by a quick conversation.

The common house.

Common house dining room

A wall in the common house children’s area

Clustered mailboxes and a basketball hoop near a peripheral parking lot.

The residents include about 50 people: a little more than 30 adults from ages 20 – 70-something (including and handful of single heads of households), and a little less than 20 children. With all these people, Blueberry Hill has a pretty simple structure for getting things done around the community. There are three self-explanatory committees: indoor, outdoor, people and fun. It’s probably the fun committee that gives the necessary lubrication in the other committees.

The collection of homes — not the car — take center stage in this walkable community.

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

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

They say it’s work to get together after work, but not in cohousing. What do you do in your community to make it easy for neighbors to make stronger connections?

Join Us for a Good Tree Village Community Presentation on Saturday, 8 September 2012

We are yearning for community. We dream of lives that are wholesome, satisfying, cooperative, full of warmth, kindness,and safety. We are thirsty for spontaneity and connectedness. We crave for a place where we can sink roots. We long to contribute and be truly interactive instead of passive spectators. We want to share our lives with those who share themselves, appreciate others and be appreciated.

We want to live in the company of family and good friends.

To facilitate this vision, Good Tree Village is using the cohousing model, an increasingly popular form of intentional community called the “old-school village for modern times”. It balances personal privacy with the benefits of community.

If this resonates with you, reach out to us by joining us on 8 September 2012 for a presentation about cohousing and creating Good Tree Village, the first faith-based cohousing community in the DC Metro area. Learn more about cohousing and how we can work together to help make this community vision a reality. Out of respect for everyone’s time, we’ll start and end on time. Meet us at Dorothy I. Height / Benning Neighborhood Library on Saturday, 8 September 2012, 11AM-1PM, 3935 Benning Rd. N.E., Washington, DC 20019.

On Facebook? Let us know you’re coming on our Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/488795697798852/.

You can also give us a ring at 301.541.3223 or send off an email to GoodTreeVillage [at] gmail [dot] com.

Eid Mubarak from Good Tree Village

The Good Tree Village Ramadan Challenge 2012 helped many Muslims be more mindful of what we ate and how we ate it this Ramadan. May Allah (highly glorified is He) accept our efforts. We wish you blessed Eid ul Fitr and a more mindful year of less: Eating less meat and making less trash. Eid Mubarak!