History of Wolf Willow Cohousing
by Christine Smillie
For a number of years, a group of activist women friends had been talking about creating a community where they could live together as they got older, with their significant others. At the same time, another group of friends familiar with cohousing had been trying to identify a group of people who would be interested in creating the first cohousing community in Saskatchewan. In December 2007 those two groups of people connected through two teacher friends and proposed that there be a meeting in January 2008 to explore the possibility of creating a cohousing community in Saskatoon.
Friends Heather and Rene hosted that first meeting. They had food catered and rented chairs for the more than thirty people who attended. Everyone left the meeting excited at the prospect of something coming out of this first conversation.
Meetings continued on a monthly basis for eighteen months. The group created a vision statement, our principles for living together, and made difficult but key decisions like whether we would be an inter-generational community or one designed for seniors. We developed a consensus decision-making model and adopted some tools to assist us in the meetings like coloured cards which we still use. As we made decisions that they didn’t agree with some people chose to leave our group. By October 2009 there were only seven people left. It was this core group that made the decision to purchase a parcel of land in the West Industrial Area on Saskatoon’s west side and to hire Ronaye Matthew from CDC (Cohousing Development Consulting) based in Vancouver. With those two decisions made, we were launched!
With Ronaye’s help and technical expertise, the group hired architects, secured a mortgage from Conexus Credit Union, succeeded in getting City of Saskatoon approval for our Discretionary Use Application to build a multifamily development on the corner of Avenue J and 17th Street, and developed strategies and processes for bringing new members into our project. After a scary first few months, our first Associate Members joined us in early 2010 and we started to feel like this dream could become a reality.
Once Ronaye joined us we agreed that a weekend of meetings each month would be the best way to work together. We created a committee structure to handle legal/financial issues, community building, and design. Each committee met every month and then motions from each committee were brought to a business meeting. Every month that we met there was a potluck supper at someone’s house. The potlucks are the highlight of our time together.
Wolf Willow Cohousing has been fortunate in our choice of architects. The principal architect for the project is Peter Trueheit from Mobius Architecture, which has offices on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. Peter chose Paul Blaser of RBM Architects to be the local architect for the project. In the spring of 2010, with more Associate Members joining us all the time, we began working with Peter to design our new home. The result of that very creative and exciting process is the beautiful, energy efficient, extremely well built 21 unit condominium development that we will soon call home.
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Wolf Willow Property
In Our Neighbourhood