A visit to a recently completed cohousing community

Through photos, Becca gives us a sense of the building–its exterior and interior spaces–at Portland’s PDX Commons cohousing.

Photo Essay of a Visit to PDX Commons (Portland, OR)

By Becca Brackett

In July, I got a chance to visit PDX Commons, a mixed-use senior cohousing community. Lew Bowers, a member there, gave me a tour about five days before their move-in day.

I was especially interested in PDX Commons because their site is quite small: half an acre. How did they fit it all in? The Bassett Creek core group anticipates a similar tight fit in an urban location.

Here is a view from across the road. Food carts used to be in business on their lot. Now, those have moved to a parking lot across the street.

Here, Lew is in front of the gate leading to a sidewalk on the west side of the building. It can be locked for security.

Aaron, the construction manager for Abbott Construction, stands in a retail space on the ground/sidewalk level. They do not have a tenant yet, but there are other small shops nearby as well as the food trucks.

Here is the parking. One can drive in off Belmont Street. Note that the “open” window actually has a metal security lattice. Unlike some areas, Portland did not require one car parking space per unit.

Portland did, however, require bicycle parking. Here I am in the bike area. Also, each unit has a cage of general storage, here shown above the bikes; additional storage units may be in another area.

The main entrance for PDX Commons is to the right of the garage door and to the left of the retail. It brings you into a “living room” of common space. Lew is standing under the skylight in the center, and beyond to the right is a fireplace.  They plan to make this inviting with couches, bookshelves, etc. The stairs (and elevators, not shown in my photo) lead up one level to the patio and the dining and kitchen areas.

At the far end of the living room is a door to a small amount of outdoor space, the use of which is as yet undetermined; because this area is possibly a future hot tub location, another door goes through to a restroom/changing room.

Lew took me up the elevator to the second floor patio. All the units look out onto this patio. This shows the rooftop patio looking towards the street. A table is spread for their opening celebration.

The walkways, with wooden railings going in front of the units, serve as corridors to get to one’s unit and social space. Two bump outs on the fourth level will be conversation areas.

The design with the common patio on top of the lower level gives a very connected outdoor space to the residents.  At the same time, it is a very private space, not visible to people going by on the street, or even to their neighbors out the back.

Here, we are looking toward the dining room with big sliding glass doors.

Going into the dining room and straight on into the kitchen, I am opening the oven in their kitchen.

Lew on a walkway–you can see a bump-out of the walkway on the top level for a conversation area.

This photo shows the width of the walkways.

I got a view looking west towards Downtown Portland, which shows the solar panels, and how the end unit on the “arms” of the building are wider. Where the wooden framework ends and the siding of the unit begins, those are the big units.

On the other arm of the building, see how the dining and kitchen area are attached. PDX considered a green roof, but ended up not doing it. However, all their drainage water goes into planters on the back perimeter of the property. Conforming to federal water-quality protection standards for runoff, Portland building code says you have to contain your drainage.

I left energized with the possibilities for the Bassett Creek location in Minneapolis!

Becca Brackett is a board member of Twin Cities Cohousing Network and a member of the Bassett Creek Cohousing Core Group.

Visit to Oakcreek Community senior cohousing in Oklahoma

A TCCN board member and her partner visit a senior cohousing community in a midwestern college town. Take a look at their photos and observations.

Text and photos by Lynn Englund

My partner and I were fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Oakcreek Community in Stillwater, Oklahoma this spring. Oakcreek is a senior cohousing community not far from Oklahoma State University.

interior view of common house with vaulted ceiling and fireplace
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and soon were talking with residents as they came and went through the common house.

group of chairs in Oakcreek common house

After we had settled into one of the three lovely guest rooms, a resident offered us a tour of the grounds and explained that the community is made up of three “pods” of eight houses each. The pods are clustered around the common house.

several houses and a walking path

Homes come in four sizes, ranging from 702 square feet to 1190 square feet. Their arrangement is specific to cohousing. One of each design is laid out in a 4-unit, townhome-style block which faces another similar unit of four homes across a gently curving sidewalk. Our guide stated that by doing this, they intentionally located the facing units much closer than typical construction of units across a roadway, making it easy for people to talk to each other from their front steps.

Bright colors set off each unit from its neighbor. The garages and parking areas were to the side, easily accessible by all. Oakcreek is situated on more than 7 acres of land in a residential area. The common yard has a park-like feel with shade trees, large areas of lawn, wildflowers and garden plots. Blooming shrubs and flowers landscape the small front yards.

wildflower field at Oakcreek cohousing
After returning from a tour of the Oklahoma State campus given by a resident who is a retired faculty member (who discovered common interests and connections with my partner), we were invited to join “happy hour” at 5:00 in the common house. A handful of residents gathered with a beverage of choice around a table to catch up with each other and share news.

table and chairs in common house at Oakcreek
Since there was no common meal that night, we dined out, then returned to our comfortable room. In the morning, I put our sheets and towels in the washer in the common house and slipped a note of thanks with the small fee for lodging into the envelope that had been left for us.

There do happen to be units for sale, and if you’re curious, feel free to check out their community’s website for details.

outdoor labyrinth at Oakcreek cohousing

 

Community + Privacy = Cohousing

Can we disrupt the isolation of modern life with a newer form? The word “cohousing” is translated from the Danish, where these clustered, intentional mini-communities are fairly common (and in fact are encouraged by government policies in Denmark).

What defines cohousing? There are some aspects that are bricks-and-mortar: each household owns its own private home–sometimes a detached house, more often a townhome or condo unit–and a share in the yard/gardens as well as a building for optional group meals and other activities, the “common house”.

It is the social aspects that disrupt our society’s typical way of life. People who live in cohousing do so with a commitment to building community among their neighbors, sharing some equipment (such as lawnmowers and snowblowers) that gets used infrequently, and helping each other.

Housing density and housing-unit cost

How Much Land is Needed to Develop a Cohousing Community?

by Lynn Englund

When I first became interested in cohousing, one of the questions I had was: how much land would a cohousing group need to purchase in order to develop their community? I’ve learned that it depends on several factors, including the values and lifestyle that a cohousing community desires, the amount of money the group can pull together, and the zoning regulations of the municipality.

For example, a community that values extensive green space and gardens probably will seek more land than a community that values living Continue reading “Housing density and housing-unit cost”

Potluck next step after the Durrett talk

by John Kalmon

We had a great turnout for the presentation on cohousing by Charles Durrett, who took us through a verbal tour of many cohousing communities, accompanied by great photos and punctuated with stories that were engaging and enlightening. He described how cohousing improves peoples’ lives by bringing a new level of social connection into their day-to-day activities.

As an example, Durrett recalled an elderly woman who moved from the home closest to the parking area to the furthest away because it improved her relationship with her neighbors, which she described as more important than her relationship with her car.

The idea of resource sharing was explained—not only lawn mowers and common-house amenities, but more importantly the opportunity to share one’s time, knowledge or emotional support. All this can and does happen easily because of the arrangement and design of the structures, and because the people who have chosen to live in cohousing recognize that their social well-being and connections are among their highest priorities.

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Durrett spoke of “social tax” as well, the work a community needs to put in to assure long-term success. This needs to be addressed early in the formation of a core group by establishing their goals and values, and learning how to make decisions as a group, often by some form of consensus. Stories of specific challenges faced by groups and how they overcame them were very informative.

The audience asked good questions. Stimulating conversation continued among attendees long after the presentation, and many pitched in without hesitation to stack the chairs!

To learn more about what is happening locally in cohousing, please continue to check our website and sign up to receive TCCN News, our e-newsletter, which will bring you all the latest news and events. We hope to see you at our next event on October 20th.