By Jeff Heuseveldt
Ravens’ Roost, Anchorage’s first cohousing neighborhood celebrated its grand opening last month (on April 3rd), marking a monumental achievement of vision and persistence in bringing the idea of a collaborative community to reality in Alaska’s biggest city. Festivities were held in our common house and attached atrium, and included appearances by Alaska first lady Donna Walker, Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, and a selection of other speakers instrumental in the development and success of the project. It was an evening of smiles, reflection, a limerick about our 5 year history, a few residents sharing what they love about living here, and congratulatory admiration from our speakers. They recognized the many obstacles our founding members overcame over our five years of development, and credited founder Mary Miner as "a force of nature" who prevailed against all odds. Of course it has "taken a village" to succeed, with contributions from all of our members.
Alaska First Lady Donna Walker said in her welcoming address, "One of the main benefits of cohousing is the social interaction. So many studies have shown that the more social we are, the healthier and happier we are, and the more successful we are." Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz summed up his impressions about the purpose of Ravens’ Roost, “when we celebrate our own diversity, we’re supposed to look for different ways of living together, and solving problems together.” He described Ravens’ Roost as an example of what can be done by a dedicated group of people despite the obstacles they may face in “attempting something new and innovative.”
Some highlights since move-in started last Fall leading up the grand opening have included:
1. Four common meals offered per week. The meals team devised a practical system to manage the meals, and in December we began to have organized community dinners on a regular basis. Many delicious meals have since ensued from the creative and talented cooks in our neighborhood, not to mention the wonderful company to enjoy them with.
2. Numerous formal and informal events in our common house have already taken place from organized community events, to smaller parties and gatherings. Be it knitters, co worker parties, presentations on cycling or boating adventures, or simply a night of musicians performing “not yet ready for tour,” we’ve already had a taste of what ‘s possible in cohousing, realizing we are only just scratching the surface.
3. Impromptu ski outings (we had good snow this season), random acts of kindness amongst neighbors, spontaneous and friendly outreach to our others when needs arise.
4. More families have joined this year, bringing our total count to 28 member households, with several more to join us in the coming months as we strive for a total of 35 households.
5. Living the day to day life in cohousing after wondering for so long what it would be like.
Of course the work doesn’t stop as we celebrate a remarkable feat of bringing this project and community from idea to reality, with phase II to be developed later this year and the continual effort to thrive in what has been established. However, we realize the most difficult parts of the development phase are now behind us. Currently, we are focused on the tasks of building our community gardens and continuing our work on landscaping as the snow melts.
Although there are too many people to thank for the success of our project in a short blog, we definitely want to acknowledge all of the cohousing communities who came before us in offering ideas and inspiration. Yes, we researched each and every one of you in depth, tried to learn what works and what is doomed to fail, realizing also that each community has its own signature and style. However we knew it could be done. We aspire to also be an inspiration to the cohousing communities yet to come, hoping our example resonates in a world in need of connection and kindness towards one another.