In early 2013, five people came together to start discussing the possibility of an adult cohousing project in Portland. All five were motivated by a desire to have the last chapter of their lives be very different from the experience of their parents, who lived in increasing isolation, with a lack of social support and stimulation.
Lew Bowers and his wife Susan Fries, Jim Swenson and his wife Janet Gillaspie, and Tom Bard started meeting regularly to explore possibilities for the project. They embarked on an epic research quest to learn about the process of developing a cohousing community.
In 2014, 11 more people joined the group, thanks to vigorous marketing by the core members. In October that year, the site on SE Belmont Street was selected and eventually purchased from Urban Development + Partners, the developer the group had chosen to work with.
With three more people joining in early 2015, the community reached a critical mass and started holding building design workshops with Works Progress Architecture. Consultant Katie McCamant of Cohousing Solutions provided guidance along the way.
The project attracted 13 more members in 2015.
Groundbreaking on the site occurred in April 2016. That year, the founders mounted a final marketing push to recruit members for the remaining units. They held informational coffees every other week, and the community held monthly potlucks where interested people could meet existing members in an informal setting.
The concrete slab for our new home was poured in June 2016 after extensive site preparation. The last units were sold in early 2017 when members were already taking tours of the building site. We delivered home-baked cookies to the construction crew every week to help keep them going.
Finally, the building was completed in July 2017, and amid much anticipation, community members started moving in. Needless to say, this summary is a huge oversimplification of a complex and vastly time-consuming process — in which the community participated every step of the way.
We turned to Kathryn (Katie) McCamant of Cohousing Solutions for guidance on developing a cohousing project. Katie has assisted some 50 cohousing projects in North America and is coauthor of Creating Cohousing, the book that started it all in the U.S.
We are proud to have partnered with Eric Cress and Avi Ben-Zaken of Urban Development + Partners (UD+P) for development and construction of our project. An award-winning Portland development company, UD+P is totally committed to the cohousing concept. Its principals have attended cohousing workshops in California and Oregon. UD+P is well known as a local developer of multi-family projects.
PDX Commons contracted with local architects Works Progress Architecture (W.PA) to design our cohousing project. Principals Carrie Strickland and Bill Neburka worked directly with our Design and Development Committees to address the unique needs of our intentional community. Through a series of collaborative workshops with our members, W.PA designed our building, common areas and private spaces.
We selected J.R. Abbott Construction as a general contractor on the project. Abbott has been based in Seattle since 1983, with offices and many projects in Oregon. Abbott helped “value-engineer” the project to ensure that we used cost-effective construction design and building techniques.