This article is part of a 4-part series. In it, we give you the rundown from our visit to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill NC during the 2017 National Cohousing Open House, presented by Coho/US. To read other parts in the series, please see the bottom of the page for links.
On the weekend of April 29th, the Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US) held its annual National Cohousing Open House Day! Cohousing communities across the country opened their doors to let the world see what they’re about. Prospective buyers, forming communities, and curious neighbors alike toured communities that have built on this social concept that’s gaining popularity internationally. We packed in visits to four communities in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC area, and we learned the ins and outs of when, where, why, and how they built cohousing in the Triangle.
Our stops included Durham Central Park Cohousing, Solterra, Arcadia, and Pacifica. In this 4-part series, we’ll briefly cover what we learned at each, and what the takeaway was from all.
From their site:
Durham Central Park Cohousing Community is a group of individuals, couples and families living in an urban, intentional community in downtown Durham, North Carolina. Known as Durham Coho, we opened late summer 2014, and currently enjoy 37 members. We are located within easy walking distance of the Farmers’ Market, the library, the YMCA, restaurants, shops, parks, performing arts center, and theaters, and we’re only a couple of miles (via the free Bull City Connector) from Duke University and its famous Medical Center.
Nearly half of Durham Coho provides shared community spaces for small and large group gathering, occasional shared meals, music, laundry, gardens and a roof-top terrace. Twenty four private condominiums ranging in size from 850 square feet to 1,700 square feet provide indoor living space and balconies large enough for dining with friends.
First of all, your jaw hits the floor when you see this building! It immediately draws you in with its cozy front patio space, and big windows. It’s modern, it’s stylish, it’s welcoming, and it’s traditional urban cohousing; one large, apartment-style building, with many pockets of common space throughout. We had the pleasure of being greeted by Alice Alexander, the Executive Director of Coho/US. Alice gave us a tour of the ground floor, which included their mail room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, 2 brilliantly laid out guest suites, restrooms, and craft room. Off of the dining area, there’s currently a sitting room that Alice said would make a great kids’ play room some day.
Some of the residents had graciously opened their units for tours, and the way they used their space was monumentally impressive. We didn’t get a chance to see their largest unit, which is 1,700 square feet, but the ones we did see felt more than spacious enough. Tall ceilings; large, strategically-placed windows; open floorplans; optional walls; mega-soundproofing. They thought of everything! The group saved money on development by offering a limited number of customizing options for things like floorplans, cabinets, flooring, etc (buy and build in bulk), but every unit looked and felt totally unique. Each resident offered their own personal touch to the place, like a Murphy bed that opened like something out of Indiana Jones (seriously, it was very cool), or a custom room-divider, or easily-changeable track lighting.
One excellent feature was the width of the hallways on each floor. Each floor’s halls were at least twice the normal width, with comfortable library nooks on two floors (fiction on one, non-fiction on the other – swoon). What better place for your overflow of books? They said many residents keep their doors open when they’re up for company, and we even noticed a few pet gates up across doors, for when residents want to leave the door open, but don’t want their fur babies to escape. One door even featured newborn pictures of the family’s new grandbaby! What a great way to announce (and brag about) a new family member.
Down in the basement, there was the parking (I’ve italicized this for a reason, you’ll see later) area, and the workshop. One minor downside to Durham Coho was their 1.5 car/unit policy. This is pretty standard when building apartment complexes, but apparently, it’s proven to be not enough. We get it – you can really end up relying on your car when there isn’t adequate public transit (not to say that’s the issue with Durham), and a couple can easily forget how to live with just one! They suggested 2 cars/unit, to avoid any extra strife over parking. Above-ground the kids wandered around the garden at the back of the complex. Even on just over half an acre, this community has a gorgeous garden and vegetable garden for residents to work in and enjoy.
Most of the residents here are seniors, but this isn’t an exclusively senior cohousing group, and doesn’t feel like one. They relax every evening with a 5pm Happy Hour; they welcomed our kiddos with open arms, brought out a bucket of toys that the residents’ grandkids play with; and they let us enjoy a picnic lunch on the patio after our tour. They hope some day to be multigenerational, so long as there are families who want to join their wonderful group.
Click below to jump to parts 2-4