Iowa City cohousing project moving forward

Friends of Iowa City close to breaking ground on Prairie Hill project

Land proposed for the Prairie Hill cohousing project. (image via Friends of Iowa City Web site)
Land proposed for the Prairie Hill cohousing project. (image via Friends of Iowa City Web site)

Iowa City is inching closer to having their first cohousing project.

The project, called Prairie Hill, was proposed by the Friends of Iowa City. They will file for a rezoning application to build the housing units next Thursday. It will be submitted and will be passed on to the Iowa City Council to be voted on three times, and members on the cohousing board are optimistic for the vote.

“We’ve heard positive words from people,” said Del Holland, board member. “Lots of the community is interested. They may not all want to live there, but they provide opportunities [for the plan to move forward.”

The land, which will be located on Highway 1 behind the Culver’s restaurant, was bought in April 2013. The board does not know an estimate of when their rezoning application may get approved, but hope to be moving in to the residential spaces in 2015. The board has public meetings twice a month for interested members and to discuss upcoming changes to the cohousing community.

The plan for Prairie Hill has changedd as organizers prepare to break ground this summer: having families join the idea, for one.

“We were concerned about making it multigenerational, because we know the advantages for children,” said Del Holland, board member. “But we talked with [a Wisconsin cohousing community] and they said the reality is many young people are so busy with their kids they don’t have time to see things until they get going. And sure enough, now we have two families interested.”

The houses, which are characterized as being smaller than average homes and closer together, will have an emphasis on community. Whether someone is interested in living in the units will depend on their commitment to community involvement, board member Barb Bailey said.

“If you’re not into community, you probably not into cohousing,” she said.

There will also be an emphasis on living environmentally friendly — rain water is hoped to be collected on site for use, there will be a community garden, and board members are hoping to have the buildings that are LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified, which is a test of energy efficiency. However, members did have to make a compromise on the issue of car usage in the community.

“We had to admit we’re in Iowa and people want garages,” said Carolyn Dyer. “A lot of cohousing units are built in warmer climates so they don’t need them. But there are people with mobility issues, and families who don’t want to carry their kids [to a communal parking lot].”

Many board member’s ultimate goal is simply to complete the project, and live in it for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of us want to stay the rest of our life,” Dyer said. “We’ve all bought into it.”

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