The effort to bring a cohousing community to the Mt. Airy area is still a long way from bearing fruit, but the idea has taken root, and as the year comes to a close, the Wissahickon Village Cohousing group is still investigating possibilities and making plans.

The cohousing group now counts 12 member households, who have made an initial financial stake in the effort. There are also associate memberships available for those who may be interested but not ready to commit, said Abigail Weinberg, the group's community coordinator.

And while the cohousing group has been in contact with several local developers, there is as yet no formal plan beyond the commitment of the small group itself. But there's no rush, Weinberg said.

"It's about finding the right developers, the right property, and the right fit," she said. "Once we have a site, and we have development underway, people will come."

The concept of cohousing

In a cohousing community, families each own their own homes but other parts of the living experience are meant to be shared. Often there is a common house, where children can play or guests can stay, allowing families' homes to be built smaller, in an arrangement Wissahickon Village describes as "urban, inclusive, intentional."

The property most often talked about is 7048 Germantown Ave., once the site of the historic Garrett-Dunn house, which burned after a 2009 lightning strike. The 1.5-acre site is owned by Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, which has city zoning clearance to create a new multi-family development of 10 condo units and 22 single-family houses.

The cohousing group's members have had workshops and meetings with Iron Stone, and pitched their idea to the property owners. From those meetings, other possible options emerged. For instance, Iron Stone has done several adaptive reuse projects, and the possibility of creating the cohousing community within an existing building has been raised, Weinberg said.

But with the group's members in a range of ages and life situations, an existing building could raise other questions about accessibility, outdoor spaces and amenities for children. Weinberg and her husband have a young son and daughter, but other members are empty-nesters.

The cohousing group is also interested in having an environmentally-aware building and have also been in contact with Onion Flats, the Kensington-based design and prefab building outfit, and others.

Members of the cohousing group will meet again this weekend to continue discussing possibilities, and meetings are open to prospective members. The meeting will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Germantown Mennonite Church, 21 W. Washington Lane.

For more information about Wissahickon Village Cohousing, visit the group here: http://wissahickonvillagecoho.com/default.htm

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