What is a middle-aged couple with five acres of picturesque land in northwest Forest Grove to do when their kids are grown and have moved out of the house?
For Brad and Linda Taylor, the answer was obvious: find some new people to move in.
The Taylors are in the process of converting their home of 22 years into what they envision as a "common house." Their new house is under construction just up the driveway, with a second new house being built next door for another couple. Eventually, they hope to have nine homes built on their five acres to constitute what they have named the Green Grove Cohousing Community.
"It's a unique project," said Dan Riordan, a Forest Grove senior city planner who has worked with the Taylors on getting their plans approved by the city. "They're doing the cohousing concept. Essentially, it is a condominium where the open space will be held in common. The individual single-family homes will be owned privately, individually."
The Taylors plan to sell their property in fractions of nine, retaining one-ninth for themselves: their new home, a covered carport and storage unit, and their share of the commons, including their old house. They have an application process for anyone who is interested, as well as design standards for the kind of houses that can be built on the property.
"We're looking for people that are pioneers that really want to undertake something challenging and dig in, because it's a lot of work," said Linda Taylor.
The going price for a piece of the condominium is $150,000.Brad Taylor described the concept as "a condominium with a strong commitment to community." Unlike a commune, for instance, residents will have their own houses and keep their finances separate — but unlike a typical housing development, they will be expected to share freely and have at least one common meal together every week, the Taylors explained. Residents will also democratically determine what is allowed in the community and what type of events it holds, rather than them being imposed by a property management company.
"It's really intended to establish more of a community than you might find in the typical single-family neighborhood," said Riordan of the Green Grove project, noting that "most condominiums tend to be multi-family structures."
Linda Taylor said their theme is "traditional neighborhood reimagined."
"(Residents) become part of a working and playing community that collaborates and shares childcare and shares meals sometimes, but you also have the privacy of your own home," she said. "It's the freedom of a free-standing home with the connection of a neighborhood that is deeply involved."
"And people coming in sign all the membership policies, and they agree to be members of the community," Brad Taylor added.The Taylors became interested in the cohousing concept several years ago. These "intentional communities," which vary widely in style but share a common theme of being built to encourage interaction between residents, have been popping up in cities across the United States over the past three decades, especially in areas that lean to the left politically. There are several other cohousing communities in the Portland area, according to an online directory maintained by the Cohousing Association of the United States, but Green Grove is the only one in western Washington County.
Linda Taylor said they hope to have Green Grove fully built out within two years. It's been about five years since their petition to have Forest Grove annex their property was approved, and while sanitary and storm sewer lines have not been constructed that far up Northwest Thatcher Road yet — Green Grove is situated in the 3300 block, on the west side of the road — Riordan noted that "municipal utilities could serve that project potentially in the future when the lines are extended."
The Taylors are passionate not only about community-building, but sustainability as well. They said they have been working to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize pollution, and to that end, they have built what they believe is the largest solar panel array in Forest Grove to generate power on the property and installed geothermal heating and cooling in what will be Green Grove's common house.
They have also contracted Winsome Construction, a McMinnville-based company that describes itself as a "custom green builder" of luxury homes in northwestern Oregon, to build the new houses going up on the property.
"We want to guarantee the quality and high-performance green construction," Linda Taylor explained.The Taylors' house — what will be the common house — has an interior that veritably pops with color, from bright tiling in the kitchen to a cheery ochre tone in the recently expanded dining room, which can comfortably seat more than 20 people. It all combines to create a warm and inviting space that residents will be able to enjoy.
Cohousing tends to draw a certain type of person, Linda Taylor said, to whom Green Grove is intended to appeal.
"The people that are attracted to this are into the arts and also very into community service and social justice and want to make a difference in the world," she said. "You know, it's all about being the change."
For anyone interested in checking out Green Grove for themselves, the Taylors are hosting an "open house" on the property from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 29. They will offer tours, refreshments, children's activities and live bluegrass music for anyone who drops by.
The public event coincides with National Cohousing Open House Day, an initiative by the Cohousing Association of the United States to promote the cohousing concept and share it with a wider audience.
Green Grove is located at 3900 Coho Circle in Forest Grove, although most mapping applications continue to show its former address, which is 3351 N.W. Thatcher Road.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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