NC Triangle Cohousing – Part 4/4: Pacifica

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. 

Pacifica Cohousing

From their site:

Pacifica is a cohousing community of about 100 people in Carrboro, N.C., that dates back to 2006. Community, diversity, sustainability and affordability are the four guiding principles upon which we are founded.

Our 46 residences are a mix of townhomes, detached dwellings and stacked houses situated on eight acres about one mile from downtown Carrboro, which is adjacent to downtown Chapel Hill.

Features include two rainwater cisterns (5k & 15k gallons), organic community gardens, passive solar design, and solar hot water and radiant floor heat in many of the units.  All homes meet Advanced Energy Corp “System Vision” green building specifications. The Common House has the largest residential photovoltaic solar array in the triangle area.

Sunday afternoon, after spending time at one of the coolest public parks we’ve ever seen, we drove out to Pacifica. The energy builds quickly as you pull into this multicolored mecca. It’s bright and inviting, with almost a resort feel. Again, this community was designed by the same architect who did Arcadia, but instead of single-family-homes, they went for a condo-style community. The large rainwater cistern grabbed your attention as you walked under the overhang between the common house and the guest suites. Bre, our tour guide, met us there. At 70, she said she’s the oldest resident in the community, and the youngest is 2 years.

In the common house, the kids played in the playroom (the built-in kid entertainment at 3/4 places really helped those busy bodies with short attention spans), and we enjoyed some lemonade while Bre gave us the low-down. The first thing we all mentioned was how modern and classy the clubhouse looked. Bre said, “Classy doesn’t always mean cozy”, and explained that they had to put noise-dampeners in the beautiful vaulted ceilings, because when you have 50 people in a big open space, you have a hard time hearing each other without sound-proofing. We thought the noise-dampeners looked classy, too!

Again, the play room was off of the dining area and visible – somebody obviously thought this over. The kitchen was big and open, and we saw their solar water heater system tucked in the back. We didn’t get to see the guest rooms, because they’re locked by a code that gets changed for each guest family (smart). Most communities either had a key, code, or key fob to enter their common houses, though some left them unlocked. Bre mentioned they’d had an unusual issue with theft in the past couple years; silverware and plastic dishes started going missing en masse. Specific, and unfortunate, but odd. They never did find the culprit, and the community had to decide how they were going to lock the common house in the future.

Pacifica was another community with exterior parking, which makes it very pedestrian friendly. They had a really innovative solution to bike/kayak storage – their covered bike sheds allow you to lock your bike up out of the elements, and hang your kayak from the rafters!

When they built, back in 2006, Bre explained that the land was very sloped, and they had to do a lot of grading. They made use of the slopey terrain by redirecting some run-off water to a collection pond, which then pumps back up into another cistern. The cisterns run a lot of their community water: the gardens, most of the common house (except for the handicap washroom, which they kept on regular water so as not to inconvenience anyone who needed it if they ever ran out), the laundry room, and the guest suites.

Bre was very excited to tell us about their community participation program, because she considers it one of their greatest accomplishments. Each household is expected to put in 4 hours of community service per month. They can either do that during a scheduled community work day, or find a project to tackle on their own. If you know you can’t make your 4 hours in the month, you can choose to pay $16 for every hour you missed, coming to $64/month. For new residents, you get a few months worth of leeway before they expect you to start contributing. If you do more than your requested time, you can save your hours in the bank, either for a time when you get sick or need to go on vacation, or to donate to another resident in a time of need. Some people never work the grounds and always pay – a passive income that the community has come to rely on for small things – and others have many hours banked because they love gardening. This feels like a great, no-hard-feelings way of getting everyone to contribute to your beautiful  shared grounds.

Click below to jump to part(s) 1-3

Part 1: Durham Central Park Cohousing

Part 2: Solterra

Part 3: Arcadia

The Takeaway + Bonus Tips


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