Great Oak and the Ann Arbor Cohousing Communities
Jan, 2019 – Cohousing Communities of Ann Arbor, Episode 4 of Planet Community
Foundation for Intentional Community
Cohousing communities are collaborative neighborhoods created with intention and a little ingenuity.
They bring together the value of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable and community living. That means residents actively participate in the design and operation of their neighborhoods, and share common facilities and good connections with neighbors.
Cohousing Communities act as innovative answers to today’s environmental and social problems.
In this episode of Planet Community, travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where three adjacent cohousing communities have formed over the last 20 years, and are now home to over 300 people!
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.
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.
July 11, 2001 – “Creating community”, about Sunward
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.