A Vancouver-based company wants to bring a European sense of community in the form of the first cohousing project in Parksville.
"Physically and legally it is the same as a townhouse strata project, socially it is a more community oriented spirit like cooperative housing," explained Gary Morrison, the president and founder of Livewell Cohousing Developments which has a letter of intent to start the project beside the community centre.
Livewell is bringing Charles Durrett to town Sept. 22 to discuss the history, benefits and details of cohousing, which he was instrumental in bringing to the U.S. from Denmark in the 1960s and 70s.
"Durrett was a post grad student in architecture when he saw a friendly, active building," in Denmark in the 1960s and ended up staying for a couple years," Morrison said.
Cohousing is meant as an affordable way to combine the benefits of privately owned homes with extensive the "club house" amenity areas and resources of a community housing project.
The residential units would be like regular townhouse or condos — on the smaller side — with additional shared amenities like a dining room, playroom and spare suite that could be used for guests or something like a nurse's suite.
The specific amenities would be chosen by the owners who have an unusual amount of say in the process, Morrison said, with Livewell acting more like consultants, helping the owners develop the housing they want.
The club house would feature community activities like movie nights, pot luck dinners and classes like yoga and dance. "We try to create a village-like atmosphere that is friendly and welcoming," Morrison said.
The zoning is already in place and Morrison said things could get rolling quickly if potential residents help spur it along.
He said they are looking at 1.6 acres on the corner of Jensen Ave. and McCarter St., part of the 6.5 acre vacant lot owned by MacLean Homes beside the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (PCCC).
They’d build 25-35 units, which would be somewhat denser than the “patio homes” city council reluctantly approved for MacLean Homes in January. At the time council said they’d prefer higher density, but they didn’t have any leverage on the existing multi-family zoning.
Morrison said MacLean, a local company, fully supports the cohousing as one way to increase density which the market wouldn’t otherwise support.
Along with information on the project, the Sept. 22 event will be the first in a series of regular gatherings for the potential residents to start coming together as a community.
If things go well, planning workshops will start in the fall with construction expected to start next year,
Catch Charles Durrett Sunday, Sept. 22 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre and check ww.livewellcohousing.ca for more information.