Walnut Commons Breaks Ground

blog walnutCohousing project begins construction in Downtown Santa Cruz

After the recent murders of two Santa Cruz police officers, the builders and future members of Walnut Commons thought about moving their groundbreaking ceremony to a later date, but instead decided to acknowledge the tragedy and stick with their plans.

“It’s so important that we do proceed, because one of the things that is going to get us through this very difficult time is community, and this project is all about community,” Santa Cruz City Councilman Don Lane said at the groundbreaking.

With the recent approval of a loan from Santa Cruz County Bank, construction for the Walnut Commons Cohousing project, a unique residential complex located at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Center Street in Downtown Santa Cruz, begins this week. Project engineers hope to have the building completed by early 2014.

Walnut Commons will contain three stories with 19 independent units, as well as a 3,000 square-foot common area with a kitchen, dining room, entertainment center, and recreational space for all residents to use. Most of the units have been filled, but six remain.

Walnut Commons is part of the growing cohousing movement, a form of intentional community that relies on consensual decision making, which began in Denmark in the late 1960s. The concept was imported to America by people like Charles Durrett, who also helped with the design of Walnut Commons, in conjunction with the building’s future residents and Bob Hightower of Barry Swenson Builders.

“The elevators and mailboxes are typically put in the front of a building,” says Hightower, “but in Walnut Commons we moved them to the core, so that people walk by the common areas and see what activities are going on.”

Walnut Commons planners and residents aim for it to be more than just a building. For people like Walnut Commons member and author Cecile Andrews, it is a community of individuals devoted to a smaller environmental impact and a stronger sense of community.

“We will be each other’s entertainment,” says Andrews, whose upcoming book, “Living Room Revolution: A Handbook for Conversation, Community, and the Common Good,” comes out later this month. ”The old-fashioned way of doing things is people getting together with their neighbors, talking, laughing, singing, and playing music. I envision this will be happening more at Walnut Commons.”

For more information visit walnutcommons.org.

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