In the Media

Great Oak and the Ann Arbor Cohousing Communities

Crazy Wisdom
Community Journal

May 2009 - "Co-housing - A Look at Ann Arbor's Three Thriving Cross-Generational Intentional Communities"

I may have more familiarity with intentional community than the average person since I've had friends living in university co-ops and have visited three communes over the last decade. However, though I knew Ann Arbor was home to three co-housing communities, I wasn't really sure what co-housing was until I took a tour of the Sunward, Great Oak and Touchstone communities and began talking to the residents this autumn.

Sunward founder Nick Meima says the communities are technically a condominium association but with many differences from the typical condo development. These differences start with community members being heavily involved in the design and architecture of the community and include the prominent role of the common houses.

Though a few residents moved into co-housing after having been members of a spiritual community, the members of Sunward, Great Oak and Touchstone don't share their income as in a commune, and they don't share a spiritual or religious dogma. In fact, a wide diversity of religious faiths is represented from Judaism and Christianity to paganism or agnosticism. What all members do share is an interest in creating intentional community and sharing resources.

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March 25, 2009 - "Home But Not Alone"

Nestled behind a typical suburban strip of car dealerships in Scio Township, at the end of a road that winds between the type of faceless office parks featured in Office Space, is a cluster of condo complexes that, at first glance, look as if they might house those glassy-eyed office workers. Sure, they're a tad more aesthetically unique, but nothing unusual.

But park your car and look around, and you'll see that the reality is very much different.

For starters, the "park your car" sign is the first clue that things are different here. The interior of the complex is dedicated solely to pedestrian walkways, with parking for residents and visitors relegated to the perimeter of the homes.

And what appears to be a big clubhouse/office building at the center of each community is actually a common house -- a welcoming building with a big open kitchen and gathering spots that are used by everyone in the community.

Which is the magic word here -- community. It begins to tell the story of what goes on at these three developments in Scio Township: Sunward, Great Oak and Touchstone are cohousing communities.

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WXYZ Action News Detroit

December 1, 2004 - "Cohousing"

WXYZ did a story about Great Oak and cohousing in Ann Arbor after a "Wife Swap" episode featured cohousing.

Metro Times

July 11, 2001 - "Creating community"

Now forming: An eco-friendly community where neighbors know one another by name, share meals and care for their homes and children together.

This ad may sound too good to be true. But Nick Meima says this is what cohousing is all about. He is anxious to show visitors the 40-unit development in Ann Arbor where these ideas have been playing out for three years. And he's busy recruiting residents for three more developments.

Cohousing - which originated in Denmark - means neighborhoods where people jointly purchase land, design and develop individual and family dwellings, and work together to care for them and for one another. In the past decade, cohousing has flourished, with dozens of communities springing up around the country. In Michigan, Meima is the pied piper for the fledgling movement.

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Cohousing Across the US

New York Times

June 10, 2009 - "To Your Left, a Better Way of Life?"

VICKI SETZER and her cats inhabit a small ranch home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Visalia, Calif. Connie Baechler leases a split-level house in Smyrna, Ga., with her fiancé. Perfectly typical nesting arrangements, and yet something profound seemed to be missing.

So on a Saturday morning in the East Bay area of California, they and about 17 others boarded a rumbling white tour bus to try to find a mode of living better suited to the times.

The tour was one of several this season in different parts of the country designed to give participants an up-close look at various co-housing communities, and to address an increasingly common feeling that one pays too much for one's home, sees friends too little there and generally lives a more isolated life than is desirable. These are not new complaints, but the recession has sharpened them, as it has thrown all large expenditures under deeper scrutiny.

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Public Radio's

May 12, 2009 - "Housing community has lots in common"

INTRODUCTION: Perhaps the most potent image conjured by the words "American Dream" is the single-family home, a self-contained building with a garage on a small plot of land, a castle for each American family. But that model's not for everyone.

Steve Chiotakis talks with Kathy Journeay, a health-care administrator near Boston, about her experiment with a different kind of suburban living called "cohousing."

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March 24, 2009 - "Cohousing: It Takes a Village to Raise a Child"

Gone are the days when a trip to the grocery store meant stopping by your neighbor's house to see if they needed a gallon of milk or an errand run while they tended to a new baby. Front porches are no longer used as an opportunity to invite friends up for an evening chat and glass of lemonade. And children no longer linger in yards littered with games, unsupervised play, and laughter.

But a new movement with old roots has taken hold in communities across the country. While some of us watch old movies with a wistful eye to the idealized small town charm, cohousing residents are living its reality. They can wisely state, "It takes a village to raise a child," and mean it.

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New York

November 28, 2008 - "A Village Down the Block"

SOME New Yorkers never get to know their neighbors.

They nod hello, but rarely speak, and they certainly don't break bread with them. Even names may remain a mystery, unless an errant letter finds its way into the wrong mailbox.

This is precisely the New York that a group of Brooklyn residents hopes to escape.

They plan to do so by pooling their resources to build a project that will be not just an apartment building, but a community that more cynical New Yorkers may consider unachievably utopian.

They envision an arrangement called "cohousing," a place where neighbors sit down to share meals several times a week, where children roam freely from home to home, and where grown-ups can hang out in a communal living room. They plan, in short, to create a village within a single development, and their chosen site is in the middle of a tree-lined brownstone block in Fort Greene.

Full story.