Since the year 1900, humans have added more longevity to our lifespan than during all of previous civilization. Clearly, we are in a new phase, one which calls for new ideas, new approaches and new celebrations. It is also a time to revive and implement older ideas in our new situation. 

Such is the case with cohousing.

Cohousing combines private dwellings and shared public spaces in one structure in order to help facilitate a conscious community. For example, residents can share a large kitchen and dining area, laundry and recreational space. Co-housing combines privacy and mutual support.

Oak Park Commons will be the first cohousing development in the state of Illinois. Last February, after three years of focused, creative work, Oak Park Commons Cohousing LLC (OPCC) identified a suitable and available parcel of land located at the corner of Carpenter Avenue and Madison Street, just west of Sugar Beet and Walgreens.

“We expect to complete purchase of the site late summer and, hopefully, construction will be completed in spring 2024,” said Susan Stall, who, along with her spouse Charlie Hoch, are two of the founders of the local OPCC core group. Stall and Hoch acknowledged the help of many individuals and organizations, including the ongoing support of Arbor West Neighbors (AWN).

Today, several factors combine to make ideas like cohousing not only appealing but necessary. Our increased longevity impacts not just where we live, but how we live. The steadily-increasing financial costs of housing and caregiving encourage shared expenses and responsibilities. Ageism requires that we think outside the box regarding our communities and our solitude.

Hoch commented that current plans for Oak Park Commons include a mix of studio, 1, 2 and 3-bedroom ADA accessible dwellings in a five-story 27-unit elevator condominium. “A large common room and adjoining rooftop garden will be located on the fifth floor,” he stated.

This ambitious and creative project has had challenges from its inception, including location, financing and equity. “We believe that diversity in age, race, ethnicity, gender, ability and experience improves rather than detracts from community,” said Stall. “Cohousing fosters reciprocity and shared values,” added Hoch.

Nonetheless, Oak Park is an expensive place to live, even after securing housing. Incorporating economic diversity from the very beginning is an important foundational factor. The optimistic OPCC core group looks forward to these challenges even as they are unfolding.

Currently, OPCC is recruiting members and investors. Can you support this important groundbreaking project? Have you thought about helping to create the very place where you want to live? Now is the time to have that discussion. There are several ways to get more information about, and get involved with, this forward-looking effort: 

  • Attend one of the OPCC upcoming monthly public meetings (via Zoom or in person) 
  • Contact Oak Park Commons Cohousing LLC (cohousingoakpark@gmail.com)(www.oakparkcohousing.org)
  • Attend the upcoming AWN housing forum, Aging in Our Communities: Housing Accessibility, Affordability & Possibilities, on May 14 at Concordia University, 9-1 p.m. 

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