Cohousing comes to Millrace

MAGGIE WEAVER

Contributing Writer

margaretw8@goshen.edu

For Mary Ellen and Al Meyer, Greencroft was becoming essential. It was an expected move, now that they had both reached their 80s and lived in a two-story house, with bedrooms upstairs. The Meyers were approaching the age of migration but didn’t want to migrate.

So, they began developing their own community: Millrace Cohousing.

Cohousing is an intentional living community, where residents choose to live collaboratively. It mixes the public and private lives; members live in their own homes, but share a communal space. The group will have one communal meal a week, shared events and care for the property together.

On their Facebook page, the Millrace Cohousing group states: “We seek to be renewed as a cooperative neighborhood through celebration and interaction, while at the same time we respect and give space to the life and individuality that members have beyond cohousing. We strive to relate beyond our physical space and Association and to integrate and interact comfortably and responsibly with the surrounding neighborhoods, city and region.”

The group strives to be intergenerational and diverse. Members of the 14-house community range from ages 25 to 87; they’re still hoping for some families with children.

The Meyers, both graduates of Goshen College, have lived in Goshen since 1966.

The idea for the Millrace Cohousing group came from a Goshen resident, Les Gustafson-Zook, who took a trip to Davis, California, in 2003 and visited a cohousing group, Muir Commons. After Gustafson-Zook returned and began sharing stories of the cohousing group, members of Faith Mennonite thought the initiative would work well in Goshen.

The group began looking for open land to build on, finding what appeared to be perfect property along the Mill Race in downtown Goshen. Unfortunately, the land was not available for purchase because of its past use as factory grounds.

“So, that little dream sort of died,” said Mary Ellen. “Everyone bought their own houses or moved away.”

“Then came the time that Al and I were beginning to think about moving to Greencroft,” Mary Ellen continued.

About 10 years ago, the City of Goshen started an initiative to develop land on the Millrace—the same land that the cohousing group had looked at a few years before.  The city council opened the restoration project up to the public, searching for proposals to clean up the land.

The Meyers started making plans.

“It’s a very unusual piece of land,” said Mary Ellen, pulling out plans of the property. “It’s right across the race from the park, it’s near the library, downtown, the high school, and the college, and the bus stop is just right down Main Street.”

Once the city gave an official call for proposals, the Meyers began gathering information and put together the Millrace Cohousing packet. After submitting their proposal, the Redevelopment Commission was not satisfied with just one option.

The commission suggested a collaboration with a young developer, David Matthews. The cohousing group would only use the south part of the property, so it was proposed that Matthews’ townhouses take up the northern part.

After reaching an agreement with Matthews, the Millrace Cohousing group was officially born.

The group is open to anyone—whoever reads their bylaws and chooses to accept them can be a part of the cohousing community.

“Any gender, any religion, any race, any anything,” said Mary Ellen. “We’re an inclusive community.”

Nancy Loewen, a Goshen resident and retired nurse-midwife, is one of the more recent people to join the Millrace Cohousing group.

“I hope to have a neighborhood community where we look out for each other and lend a hand to one another when needed,” said Loewen.

Loewen was attracted to the cohousing group because of its community-centered lifestyle and that people in the group just “want to be good neighbors.”

As of right now, 10 of the 14 spots in the Millrace Cohousing group are taken. The foundation has been laid and six to eight of the houses are to be built by this summer.

“[Cohousing] is just like extended family,” said Mary Ellen. “For young families, they’ll have a pile of grandparents and uncles and aunts, for the older, there will be younger people to help out. I think it’s a good place to age. It’s forming networks in a neighborhood, providing support and building community.”

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