Efforts are underway to construct what is believed to be the city’s first cohousing initiative – a three-storey, six-unit, retrofitted and expanded century home on the corner of Woolwich and Mont streets, near Exhibition Park.
The concept of cohousing is nothing new. In fact it goes back pretty far in human history, but it’s not something currently available in Guelph … or even most of Ontario.
“Guelph is a real prime place because there’s a big community in Guelph that understands this concept of living,” said David McAuley, owner of the numbered company behind Watershed Cohousing and a future resident.
“We’re reclaiming ways of living that have worked for humans for forever,” added fellow future resident Sally Ludwig.
Envisioned for the better part of a decade, construction efforts began last summer and are expected to wrap up so members can move in this October.
“Sharing housing space and sharing mutual support, resources and equipment make so much sense. It’s important to all of us here to live lightly on the Earth,” said Ludwig. “To me, it looks like an ideal situation because it will be private space and shared space.”
The building features individual residential units of about 1,000 sq. ft., complete with kitchen and dining room, along with a variety of shared spaces such as two balconies, gathering/work area, an art studio, bicycle storage and a spare bedroom where overnight guests can stay.
“I’m looking forward to sharing some of our meals together and to the development of friendship of us all,” Ludwig said. “We want to be with each other in the best way that we can.”
“Co-living is a little more intimate, where you maybe just have a bedroom and your own bathroom and you 100 per cent of the time share the kitchen and everything,” McAuley explained. “Wiith cohousing you have an individual unit and we still have communal activities on a regular basis.”
This will be the second urban cohousing community in Ontario, McAuley believes. The other one being Terra Frima in Ottawa, which started in 1997 and has 12 units.
According to the Canadian Cohousing Network, several other cohousing projects are in the process of forming or being developed throughout the province, though Terra Firm is the only one up and running.
Another cohousing project is getting underway in the city, with plans to demolish three homes in order to make way for a 3.5-storey building with 21 units, along with conversion of a fourth existing home into a triplex, on Speedvale Avenue East.
That project is currently making its way through the approvals process with the city.
Watershed Cohousing is being built with air-to-air pumps for heating and air conditioning, energy recovery ventilators, triple-glazed windows, waste water heat recovery and photovoltaic panels on the roof.
The plan, McAuley said, is to also offer car sharing.
“There’s more to it than just the technical part of being in a building that’s low energy consumption and low carbon footprint. It’s a lot to do with the lifestyle,” said McAuley. “Living together you live with less in terms of what you’re consuming, what you’re purchasing and just sharing things with other people.
“Rather than having eight different wheel barrows, we’ll have one.”
The building’s location also contributes to the idea of having a lower carbon footprint, with many amenities, shopping and park space all within a few minutes walk – including to Downtown Guelph.
Members have already gathered numerous times to work on the building’s name and design, as well to share meals, along with trips together to check out other cohousing communities throughout North America.
All six units at Watershed Cohousing were sold, but circumstances changed for one family that had to back out, McAuley said. Hence, there’s one unit still available.
For more information about the project, visit www.watershedcohousing.ca.