Local seniors attracted by the thought of living communally and resourcefully are hoping to establish a co housing community on the site of the defunct Verde Village north of town.
Called Ashland Creek Co housing, it would consist of 20 homes, likely duplex cottages, on 3 acres south of the Dog Park at the end of Helman Street. The site was to be a visionary, environmentally friendly 68-unit subdivision, but that project was derailed by the economy in 2009.
The homes would face a central hall or clubhouse that has communal kitchen and dining and areas for art, music, library, workouts and such, said leader Dennis Kendig.
Residents, who will be older than 55, will share occasional meals, go shopping together and make friends who'll be there in the infirmities of old age, he says.
It's not affordable housing — the units will cost in the $300,000 to $350,000 range — but they will be built at about 1,350 square feet with solar and geothermal energy so utility bills will be negligible, Kendig says.
Residents will economize and ecologize by having a communal electric car to take on shopping trips, he adds.
"Smaller is better," says potential resident Roger Mueller. "We've tried it and it's easier to move around, clean it and keep it repaired."
Kendig says co housing residents enjoy community, rely on neighbors and, according to studies, are healthier than their counterparts.
But after a life of independence in a single-family home, can people get along in community?
"Well, I'm on a university faculty, so I don't have much faith in that," Mueller jokes, adding that he and his wife, Arlene, attended co housing meetings in Grass Valley, Calif.
"I was touched by the way people listened and shared responsibility, so it does work."
"I'm sold on it," Arlene Mueller says. "We want to live more lightly on the Earth and share laundry and driving tasks — and be independent of our children longer. From being Quaker, I've learned it takes patience and I'm very excited about it."
The group is using "The Senior Co housing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living," by architect Chuck Durrett, who will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way. Admission is $5.
Durrett, considered the chief authority in the field, has been the architect on more than 50 senior co housing projects in America and may do this one, Kendig says.
The senior co housing group sees it a place where neighbors will take care of neighbors as they grow older, eliminating the need for an old folks home or assisted living, Margaret Daugherty says, noting episodes of aging come intermittently, not all at once.
"Co housing usually has the focus on the children," says Iris Milan, "but in this community, the energy is on seniors. We can help each other. We can move out of our big houses. We can have a vegetable garden and share in that, as well as art, music, exercise. We can go on vacation without worrying about the house."
Her husband, Dan Milan, says, "It's an opportunity to be in a real neighborhood where you're friends and neighbors and you all work for the common good."
Daugherty says the community is "not a 'Kumbaya' thing but a very practical concept" that includes assisted living at the end of life.
Getting along is reinforced with regular meetings of the homeowner association, which makes decisions that affect the community. Kendig compares the units, in price and space, with condos at Mountain Meadows.
Kendig has paid $1,000 for an option on the land, nonrefundable and good till April 30. Because of Verde Village, where Kendig and his wife, Daugherty, were slated to be residents, many necessary city approvals are already in place.
When they visited the senior co housing project in California, the Muellers said the community's vision statement had as its No. 1 priority to "have fun," and that's what they want to see at Ashland Creek Co housing.
For information, call Kendig at 541-482-9619 or see www.ashlandcreekco housing.com.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.