Cohousing project moves ahead

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MAY 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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The end of planning stages for one developing Iowa City neighborhood is nearly completed.

“The ‘co’ in cohousing is community,” said Iowa City cohousing board member Del Holland. “People know each other and support each other and do things together.”

Cohousing is a type of neighborhood in which the residents take part in the design of their neighborhoods. Additionally, these homeowners often share facilities such as courtyards or playgrounds.

The cohousing group is seeking to develop a new neighborhood named Prairie Hill. The group completed buying the land last year and has now begun the final step in the project before construction.

“Last Thursday, we turned in the paperwork to request a rezoning of the land we own,” Holland said. “That whole process could take up to 90 days. Then, we’re hoping to be ready to start digging.”

The neighborhood will include 32 units, divided among a common house and 12 duplexes. There will also be a community garden, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design will certify each house — meaning it will be environmentally friendly.

While there are no current estimates for the price of each house, the total cost of the project is estimated to be roughly $5 million or $6 million.

The houses will also have the option of adding solar panels to provide their own energy, said board member Barbara Bailey.

“If people are so inclined, they should be able to provide [their own energy],” she said.

While each house will be self-sustaining, Bailey said the common house will add to the experience.

“Every home is fully equipped, and people who live in it don’t have to go anywhere else,” she said. “The common house will provide a whole new level of amenities.”

Some of these amenities include a community kitchen and workshop.

The neighborhood will meet the needs of the residents because the residents are the only developers, board member Annie Tucker said.

“The difference between this and any other development in town is it’s the people who are going to live in the community that are making the plans,” she said. “We’re not a bunch of developers looking to turn a profit.”

The project has drawn a lot of interest from the community, Holland said.

“We have 10 invested, committed members at this time, and a large list of people who are very interested,” he said.

While Prairie Hill would be the first cohousing development in Iowa, there is many of these communities in the United States, Tucker said.

“There are over 100 cohousing communities in the United States at this point, and there are about 150 that are in process,” she said. “A lot of college towns or university towns have cohousing.”

Though the development of the new neighborhood has been long, it was overall a good experience, Tucker said.

“We began meeting about this five years ago, a group of friends,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of journey that has been rich and interesting.”

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