Curious to see an adult cohousing project in action, I recently visited Wolf Creek Lodge in Grass Valley, California. Joined by PDX Commons members Lew Bowers and Tom Bard, we spent a day learning from “Wolfie’s” about their new community. Members started moving in October, 2012, but the project, stalled by the recession, has been in the planning for many years. Their property is within walking distance of two small malls, a favorite feature of many residents. This proximity has allowed some to give up or go from two to one car.
Just 180 steps from their residence is Wolf Creek itself, a journey that 90-year old Magdelene makes daily. As WCL’s oldest resident, she was also on the three-person dinner cook team the day we were there. The delicious meal featured roasted veggies, primarily from the organic gardens on site, along with chicken and local peaches. After dinner, folks either walked to the creek or lingered in the dining room for lively conversation and a glass of wine. Talk centered around a 9-hour, very challenging hike five folks had taken the previous day and had come out alive!
The three guest rooms in the common house were booked for the evening, some with relatives visiting residents, one with folks searching for their perfect cohousing option. The common house also had a comfortable living room, well-equipped and efficient kitchen, shared laundry facilities, an office, unisex bathrooms with showers.
High ceilings in the common house, as well as in individual residences, along with large windows, made all the interior spaces feel spacious. The largest residence was about 1100 square feet, but everyone agreed that was adequate, given how much space there was in the common house. The smallest unit was about 600 square feet, efficiently laid out and affordable at about $250,000.
Two Sacramento friends with no previous interest in cohousing accompanied us. My friend Penny said, after a conversation with WCL’s marketing team, “I would love to live with these people – they’re so respectful of one another.” When asked what surprised one resident most about living at WCL, she said “It takes me forever to take my recycling to the recycling shed – I meet so many people along the way and I want to stop to talk to everyone.” We went to Wolf Creek Lodge to gather information about marketing and other details about bringing an adult cohousing project to reality. But, by far, the most important learning for me was how well the community worked – the energy, camaraderie, friendliness, enthusiasm were so evident. I came away with renewed resolve to make PDX Commons happen in Portland. –Susan Fries.