Creating Community Together

Push for Cohousing Project in Union Corners Gains Momentum

THE CAP TIMES

Todd Milweski (April 27, 2016)

A cohousing component to the Union Corners development on Madison’s east side has been discussed for at least two years, but organizers are getting closer to making it a reality.

Union Corners Cohousing is working with project developer Gorman & Co. to secure the option to develop a triangular piece of land along Winnebago Street.

Carol Weidel, a Union Corners Cohousing board member, said discussions are set to take place in the coming weeks to work out more of the details.

Madison already has three cohousing developments, where residents share some facilities with neighbors and collaborate to make community decisions.

Village Cohousing has 18 units on Mound Street on the near west side, while the 30-unit Troy Gardens Cohousing is on the north side and the 40-unit Arboretum Cohousing is near Henry Vilas Zoo.

The Union Corners project organizers have used the money they’ve been able to raise so far to hire an attorney, development consultant and architect.

“It’s really complicated to us, and we almost didn’t even know where to begin,” Weidel said. “We talked to a lot of people and we learned that, to use an overused phrase, you’ve got to show them the money.”

The Union Corners group is participating in this year’s National Cohousing Open House Day from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday along with Madison’s three established communities. Information on the Union Corners development will be available at Arboretum Cohousing, 1137 Erin St.

The details of the project are still limited, Weidel said, but around 20 households have financially contributed to the effort so far. It’s unknown how large the development will be, what the finished product will look like and the total cost.

But to move forward, organizers need to find more people who are interested in the concept.

Cohousing has been popular in Europe for years and has been in the U.S. since the 1980s, but environmental sustainability concerns have led to a renewed interest lately.

“One of the beauties of cohousing is that there’s a lot of common space so you’re not going to be spending all your time necessarily in your private unit,” Weidel said. “Although people can — they’re free to do that. They’ll have a kitchen and a bathroom and all that stuff. But the idea is you’ll hang out with your neighbors. These are the people that we’re spending a lot of time with and getting to know.”

The earliest that the project could be completed likely is 2018, Weidel said.

The first two phases of the larger Union Corners development are in progress, with construction starting last year on a 60,000-square-foot UW Health clinic and city approvals for a mixed-use development featuring a grocery store, commercial space and apartments.