Cohousing offers exurbs efficient development, ample green space

What if instead of spreading houses out across the acres of a neighborhood, developers placed them close together, preserving the rest of land as open space?

The idea to do so is catching on in Minnesota neighborhoods in Northfield, St. Louis Park and Rushford. These Cohousing communities seek to create tight-knit neighborhoods, while using the rest of their open space for joint purposes, such as farming or recreation.

In the city in neighborhoods such as the Monterey Cohousing Community in St. Louis Park this manifests as a development on 2.5 acres of land with a shared apartment building and surrounding townhomes. Their open space consists of a large front lawn, woodlands, a park and community garden.

In the rural developments of Rushford’s Zephyr Valley Community or the planned Buffalo Commons in Northfield, larger plots of land are used, but houses are still built near each other to foster community and allow for greater green space. The Zephyr community has woods, ponds, land for goats and lots of open space where neighbors can mingle and children can explore.

There are some big benefits to this type of construction. Houses grouped together allow for incredibly efficient construction of shared amenities, such as sidewalks and roads. However, this efficiency comes at the price of individual backyards.

Would exurbanites be willing to give up their own backyard for miles of shared land? Is Baldwin the right place to consider a cohousing community?

Cohousing may sound a little like a commune, especially when many of the current iterations of cohousing communities are focused on eco-friendly lifestyles and share values similar to the back-to-the-land movements of earlier decades. But in theory the cohousing concept can be anything a group of like-minded people wants to create.

For instance, a cohousing community could use some of their shared land to build a recreational vehicle track or preserve a section of woods for hunting, as well as the usual uses of farming, raising animals and recreational open space.