It’s That Time of the Year: Get on the Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Annual Spring Bus Tour, May 17

Join Mid-Atlantic Cohousing‘s Annual Spring Bus Tour on Saturday, May 17, 12:30 – 6:30PM. Visit three well-established cohousing communities in DC, Maryland and Virginia: Takoma Village, Eastern Village and Blueberry Hill. You’ll get a guided tour, presentation and Q&A at each community. Snacks and transportation are provided.

This tour always sells out. Get your seat now!

2014MACBusTour

Within Reach: a Couple’s Journey to Find Sustainable Community in the U.S.

WithinReachMovie.com

Experience and discuss the future of sustainable community with the movie Within Reach, followed by conversation with Associate Producer Raines Cohen, at a near-Metro cohousing community. Warm up after the #ForwardOnClimate 350.org rally at the White House (and maybe park there beforehand and Metro in to avoid downtown traffic/parking challenges) and meet cohousers and cohousing professionals visiting from all over. Sponsored by Mid-Atlantic Cohousing, the regional group providing education about community in the greater DC area.

Raines Cohen is a Cohousing Coach and Cohousing California / East Bay Cohousing regional organizer in Berkeley, California. Raines’ friends Amanda and Ryan set out to make a documentary of a trip seeking sustainable community, visiting 100 Ecovillages, cohousing neighborhoods, co-ops, group houses, and more, all across the country…6500 miles by bicycle! Watch the trailer:

The movie is now available for community screenings, after several years in development. It focuses on ten key communities, including cohousing and spiritual communities, and includes animations about sustainable community.

… one man in the Berkeley Fundraiser Preview Premiere audience stood up and said:
“I fell in love with this country again.”

… Betsy Morris of East Bay Cohousing writes:
“A fabulous and inspiring movie. A new take on the great American road trip.”

… Josh Harper of New Hope Community in Oakland, California said:
“I was so inspired by your film tonight. The world is longing to know the truth you reveal in your journey. May it be seen by many.”

Learn more about the film (and get your own screening kit for your community) at www.WithinReachMovie.com.

Doors open at 6:30PM, film rolls at 7PM, with conversation to follow.

Suggested Donation $15, or $10 for members of Mid-Atlantic Cohousing member groups.

RSVP via the DC cohousing MeetUp to get sent the address and directions:
http://www.meetup.com/Washington-DC-Area-Cohousing/events/104796162/

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?

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

Next stop on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus tour was Liberty Village in Libertytown, MD, a hop, skip and a jump (about 10 miles) outside of Frederick.

Liberty Village began when a few of the community initiators invited Chuck & Katie (as architects Charles Durrett and Katie McCamant are called in cohousing circles) to speak. Much to everyone’s delight, about 30 people showed up! That meeting led to the construction of a self-developed, multi-generational cohousing community with mostly duplexes and a couple of single family homes.

The Common House

You’re almost guaranteed to have a quick chat with the neighbors in these common spaces: mailbox and play area.

Where are all the cars? Tucked away in the parking lot for a more walkable neighborhood.

Liberty Village boasts a more sophisticated community because of the duration its development. What’s the key to this community’s longevity? They make guidelines instead of rules. They take time to have discussions, getting concerns out ahead of time, and talk, talk, talk to work things out as opposed to avoiding conflict. When the decision has be made and it’s time to get things done, no one formally keeps track of who is doing how much, but everyone contributes in their own way. For example, some people like cooking meals and avoid outside work like the plague, but those who like to play in the dirt have free range to work knowing that they’ve got a scrumptious meal waiting in the community kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, the folks in Liberty Village make time to eat together 1 – 2 times a week with four people on the cooking team for just one week a year. For those who like to eat, but not cook, those are some nice odds.

The footpaths are wide enough to drive to the front door when necessary, but even better for children to bicycle and play safely.

When cars are corralled to the periphery, carts make it easy to lug shopping to the doorstep.

An inviting invitation to eat alfresco.

If lively discussion and consensus decision-making in the setting of a charming, rural, sustainable community sounds enticing to you, contact Liberty Village because they are ready to add 10 more homes to the 18 already clustered on 8-acres. An additional 15 sprawling acres are set aside for wetlands, meadows and woods for man, woman, child and nature to share. The geothermal heating — which means low energy bills — are a definite added bonus. Other green benefits include community-wide recycling and composting, rain gardens and riparian buffers for natural water filtration, a warm season grass meadow that provides wildlife shelter and food, a 2.8 acre reforestation area of native trees and shrubs, a Chesapeake Bay-Wise Certification, and the Chicken Palace next to a community vegetable garden.

Community Garden and the Chicken Palace

The white poles indicate lots available for building,

From my quick visit there I got the feeling that a short and sweet mantra for Liberty Village might be to listen, contribute, and support your neighbor. When you move in and you see old Waldo waddling down those pedestrian-friendly footpaths, make sure you give him a gentle scratch behind the ears for me.

Using the wisdom of the group, Liberty Village Cohousing residents brought this model into reality.

Neighborhood children take a break from the kiddie pool in front of a spacious duplex.

We visited many of the DC metro area’s cohousing communities on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour. Up next is part three in this four-part series: Blueberry Hill Cohousing in Vienna, VA.

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

What about this rural, sustainable cohousing community appeals to you? What would you do differently?

Didn’t Make it to Oakland for the 2012 National Cohousing Conference?

Interested in forming a cohousing group? Building a cohousing community? Living in cohousing?

We heard that the 2012 National Cohousing Conference in Oakland, CA this past June was a smashing success! For those not able to attend, Mid-Atlantic Cohousing is sponsoring a follow-up to the conference. Those who attended the conference will share what they learned. Those who didn’t attend can learn more about forming, building and living in cohousing communities.

Join Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Sunday, 22 July, 2 – 4 p.m. at Takoma Village Cohousing in NW Washington, DC.

Let them know you’re coming by registering here: http://www.meetup.com/Washington-DC-Area-Cohousing

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?

Right People, Right Bus!

Join a cheery band of folks just like you as they tour cohousing communities in DC. Maryland and Virginia on the Annual Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour, Saturday, 19 May, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

How does this innovative community model really work? The tour gives you an opportunity to learn more about cohousing firsthand. You will visit a variety of cohousing types — rural, suburban and urban, small and very large, with differing types of governance, decision-making and workshare systems — but all with the common theme of people living in community and being good neighbors.

A day like this is the fastest way to learn about cohousing up close and personal. The cohousing communities you will visit are also some of the greenest communities in the country including the first LEED certified silver community of privately owned homes in the U.S.

A tour guide accompanies the group for the entire day, and at each community participants are greeted by a host who guides the group around the neighborhood. Q&A highly encouraged!

There are only 30 seats on the bus and this highly anticipated tour sells out fast. For details on the activities for the day and to register, go to the MAC website MidAtlanticCohousing.org. Don’t miss the early bird discount through April 30! Note: You must register on the MAC website to be registered for the bus!

New this year is the Aprés Tour Get-Together! Please join us after the tour for some munchies, socializing, relaxing and reflecting. We plan to be there to answer any questions about Good Tree Village as well. Get on the bus!