CoHousing Solutions Newsletter | July2019
Did you know Cohousing has super powers?
Maybe you're a cohousing resident, or maybe you're dreaming of the day that you and a couple of your best friends will build your own cohousing community.

No matter your situation, I am willing to bet that if you are reading this newsletter you are already aware that cohousing possesses superpowers, superpowers that have the potential to make the world a better place. Superpowers like the ability to combat social isolation, to reduce excess consumerism, and to bring sustainable living standards within reach. But did you know that cohousing also has the ability to change city structures and fight urban sprawl?

The word we like to use for this superpower is infill...
It is becoming increasingly evident that the patterns of suburban growth that have shaped America for decades are no longer a sustainable. The American dream of single family homes surrounded by their own white picket fence has led to rapid expansion of our cities and urban areas. We continue building outwards, taking up more natural space and farmlands. Besides the loss of natural habitats, urban sprawl creates long commutes, increases infrastructure costs, and decreases our physical activity and community interaction (to name just a few).

This outward pattern of development is not sustainable, and if we want to change the earth we need to look at filling in the cracks instead of furthering expansion.
Infill projects develop vacant and under-utilized properties within already existing urban areas, giving us the opportunity to bolster our cities from the inside-out. When we use the existing lots and structures within cities, the infill superpower manifests in many forms:
  • Reinvestment in local neighborhood
  • Lowering our environmental impact
  • Strengthening of the local economy
  • Providing more housing opportunities
  • Instilling new life and vitality into a neighborhood
  • The repurposing of old/historic structures, and repurposing existing infrastructures

Cohousing communities are the perfect candidates for infill projects. Besides the benefits listed above, cohousers tend to bring their own set of uplifting attributes to their neighborhoods:
  • they get involved with the local school districts
  • they become members of the neighborhood association
  • they are voters
  • they are invested homeowners
  • they offer up their shared amenities for local meeting spots and events

Our President, Katie McCamant, has worked on countless infill projects, some of which she herself has called home. She sees infill as having the power to transform an area, bringing life and community back into spaces that have been ignored or exiled.
Housing Opportunity! (in an infill project!)
Katie McCamant's first infill project, and home of 12 years, has a unit for sale . .
When Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett moved in with their 1-year-old daughter in 1992, Doyle Street Cohousing was one of the first cohousing communities built in North America, reusing and adding onto a brick warehouse. The 12-unit community was the first new market-rate housing to be built in decades in the industrial town of Emeryville in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area. Katie says, “as a gardener and young mother, I would never have moved to Emeryville to buy a single family home, but buying into the community created a great place to raise our daughter and it felt very safe, without adding locked gates.”  

In the decades since, the diverse surrounding neighborhood has added parks, community gardens, hundreds of new condos, and greatly improved schools. Doyle Street residents contributed to the town’s turn around with their active involvement, including residents sitting on the School Board and City Council. Over the last 27 years, several dozen kids have grown up at Doyle Street, proving that kids do just fine without a back yard, or even grass…. Especially if they have a great community.

A unique cohousing opportunity has recently opened up, as one of the early Doyle Street families is selling their home. While it is listed as a 1 bedroom, it is really much more. It is 1410 sq. ft., complete with 13’6” high ceilings, a large bedroom, and spacious loft above the living area. The 20 x 20ft. bedroom could easily be divided in two, or alternatively used as shared kids bedroom with a parents' sleeping suite in the loft (sound isolated from the bedroom). Perfect for a growing family (as it served the sellers for the last 20 + years) or people who work from home. 

 Doyle Street Cohousing is ready to welcome the next generation to their community and the ever changing small-town-in-the-middle-of-the-city, Emeryville. 
See some of our favorite infill projects that Katie has worked on:
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, CA
Completed in 1993
The founding members of Southside Park took a leap of faith in submitting a proposal to the City to develop 1.25 acres in the downtown area. At that time (1990) the area was deteriorating into drug wars, and nothing new had been built in that part of town for 20 years. The city was hesitant to let them build, nervous that the new community would further the divide in an already struggling neighborhood.

Many of the group members had their initial hesitations as well. On initial glance the area seemed unsafe and undesirable. But -as it is with most cohousing communities- all it took was the right group of people with the right vision to see the potential in the site. The community members understood that by investing their passion and resources into this project, they could give the struggling neighborhood the resurgence of life it needed. Instead of building a fortress against the surrounding neighborhood, they built a bridge to a thriving community and got involved with the larger neighborhood association. This new neighborhood within a neighborhood transformed the surrounding area, bringing life, energy, and community back into this part of town.

Just this June, a new Sacramento cohousing community, Washington Commons (read more below), used Southside Park's common house to facilitate meetings and workshops. It was a full circle moment for both the residents of Southside Park, and Katie McCamant who has consulted for both groups.
Swan's Market Cohousing
Oakland, CA
Completed in 2000
Swan's Market Cohousing is a textbook example of how the superpower of infill can preserve and revive historical structures.

It is located in the preserved and retrofitted 1917 Swan’s Market building in the historic Old Oakland neighborhood. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an award-winning innovative mixed-used historic-preservation project. This project was unique in the number of opportunities it presented. Not only did this project preserve a piece of history, it brought affordable housing options to the booming Bay Area market. Katie McCamant worked with the community members and professionals to contain costs, and helped cohousing buyers and the city to see the potential in the project. City council members were particularly impressed that cohousing buyers were ready to move out of their "nicer" neighborhoods to buy market rate homes in this part of town. When the project was completed the new energy around the community brought life back into the dilapidated neighborhood, and Swan's Market was once again a hub for vibrant city life.
PDX Commons
Portland, OR
Completed in 2017
PDX Commons is a senior cohousing community in Southeast Portland. On this small plot of land, the PDXC members and professionals created a vision for a thriving and active senior community. PDXC residents love the walkable location, and you can almost always run into a community member on the walk to yoga or the neighborhood brew pub.
A few infill projects we are currently working on..
Haystack Heights
Spokane, WA

Haystack Heights is forming around the historic Frank Swenson house, built in 1895 in one of Spokane's oldest neighborhoods. The house will be revitalized for the cohousing rentals, along with 39 new cohousing homes in the vacant land below the garden.
Washington Commons
West Sacramento, CA

Washington Commons will be built in one of West Sacramento's oldest neighborhoods, the Washington Neighborhood. It was once a riverside stop for Native American tribes, and then a camp for gold miners making their way into the hills.
The community aims to incorporate the historic and urban neighborhood, and become an integral part of its revitalization. They have even already begun working with local organizations and charities.
C Street Village
Novato, CA

C Street Village will be built in Marin County in California's Bay Area. The project is a rare opportunity for transit-oriented development in Marin, given that the site is less than a quarter mile away from the new smart train stop. With the escalating cost of living in the Bay Area, the community is focusing on keeping costs down in an effort to bring more affordable housing options to Bay Area residents and employees.
We're Here To Help!
We provide development consulting services to help you create your sustainable neighborhood . Our team pioneered the development of cohousing in North America, and we have helped create dozens of successful communities.
Our newest venture involves training passionate cohousing entrepreneurs through the year-long 500 Communities Program .
Photo by Ed Asmus
Architecture by McCamant & Durrett Architects
CoHousing Solutions
(530) 478-1970
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