If all goes well, in the sweet little neighborhood of Mt. Airy in northwest Philadelphia, lies the future of home of Wissahickon Village Cohousing. The 10 households who make up the current membership want to build a 32 home green and sustainable community on a property owned by Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, a real estate investment and development company that identifies and rehabilitates distressed properties. An historic home, the Garrett-Dunn House, that once graced the property, burned down.
Iron Stone already has approval to build a 32 mixed townhouse and condo building complex on the site. Andrew Eisenstein, principal and founder of Iron Stone, became interested in the possibility of cohousing at the site when he was approached by WVC member, Melissa Klein. “I was intrigued enough by the concept of cohousing described to me to find out if my current plan was adaptable to the cohousing model” said Eisenstein, “and if not, what other design might be appropriate for the site.”
WVC has hired Cohousing Collaborative, LLC to create an initial site plan to demonstrate that the site will accommodate a cohousing community as envisioned by the members. Cohousing Collaborative will also help the community negotiate the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with Iron Stone should both parties agree to move forward. One of the many things that Cohousing Collaborative is doing for the group is educating them about the development process so they can make informed decisions. “We had come a long, long way organizing ourselves to take on creating a cohousing community in Philadephia.” said Klein. “We got to a spot where we needed help figuring out the next right thing to do. That’s why we turned to Cohousing Collaborative.”
Jack Wilbern, Cohousing Collaborative, leading workshop programming and design session.
Cohousing Collaborative principals, Jack Wilbern and Ann Zabaldo spent one and a half days in an intensive workshop over the Labor Day weekend focused on two outcomes: a series of rough sketches of possible site configurations and an action plan for the next tasks including a “Pitch Package” for the developer. The 1.5 day intensive workshop produced four possible sketches. The group also brainstormed a Plan of Action and Next Steps for the next 45 days. “I was gratified to see that two of the four sketches appear to work very wel for cohousing” said Wilbern who is also an architect and who led the programming and site design portions of the workshop. “The group had excellent suggestions for translating their vision of cohousing into an actual working drawing.”
The group is moving ahead quite rapidly. “We were thrilled with the progress we made this past weekend. Challenging process … and thrilled,” said Vanessa Lowe, a long time Philly resident and WVC member. According to Bob Bernstein, himself an architect in Philly, “…we’re no where near ‘final’ on any of these drawings so it’s a good time to join in. There’s still lots to do to design our community — both the bricks n’ mortar and the social aspects.”
In the same way that Cohousing Collaborative is educating the WVC members, they are also clarifying the benefits and the particulars of working with a forming cohousing community to Iron Stone. “One of the great joys of working in cohousing is working with experienced developers new to the cohousing model,” said Zabaldo. “Once they understand the benefits of the model to the developer — and there are many – they are ‘sold’ on it.”
Want to live in cohousing in the “City of Brotherly Love?” You can find out more about Wissahickon Village Cohousing by calling Libby: 215-842-3949. Or email: info@WissahickonVillageCoho.com
Members Wissahickon Village Cohousing