Iowa City Cohousing is welcoming new members for its Prairie Hill development of 36 modest green homes on an 8-acre infill site near the University of Iowa and downtown Iowa City. The first members have moved in to their flats and studios, and the Common House is completed. Eight more homes will be done in the spring and summer of 2018. Five homes will be available for new members to purchase by summer.
The Prairie Hill community
Current members range in age from 4 to 75, and we are committed to being a diverse, multigenerational community. Among us are an accountant, a mediator, a landscape designer, a massage therapist, an optometrist, an engineer, professors, teachers, social workers, journalists and affordable home specialists. We are especially eager to welcome households with school-age children. The community is located within walking distance of an elementary school. Some down-payment assistance is available for income-qualified individuals and small families. Our homeowners’ association has adopted sociocracy, a modified form of consensus decision-making, as its governing process to permit everyone’s voice to be heard before making practical “good-enough-for-now” decisions.
The homes and Common House
Homes in Prairie Hill range from 515-square foot studio apartments in the Common House to 1600-square foot duplexes with up to four bedrooms. In addition to the Common House apartments, units are clustered in stacked flats with four homes of 645, 800 or 950 square feet, two-story duplexes of 1290 or 1600 square feet, and single-level townhouses of 800 and 950 square feet. As of May 2018 a Common House studio apartment, an 800-square foot two-bedroom flat and a similar townhouse, and two 1290-square foot three-bedroom duplexes are available for purchase and move-in by Summer 2018. More homes will be started as they are spoken for.
Prairie Hill will be an eco-community planned according to permaculture principles. Super-insulated, all-electric homes are clustered around the Common House and surrounded by individual kitchen gardens. All homes will meet requirements to be EnergyStar-rated and eligible for LEED for Homes Silver certification. Individual homeowners may choose features to qualify them to achieve LEED Gold certification. All homes have been sited to accommodate solar collectors on their roofs. We aim to be a model sustainable development for the city and region.
The large Common House has two guest rooms, a large community kitchen, a dining room, coffee nook and living room; a kids’ room, multipurpose activity room, and laundry; and an elevator as well as four studio apartments. A separate building will house a well-equipped workshop. A natural playground and garden shed are in the future plans.
The site on Prairie Hill Lane
Folur acres of our site is being preserved for gardens, orchards and prairie where we will harvest produce for use in individual and community kitchens. As soon as the first members moved in, our Land Committee began preparing and planting a 50 by 50-foot garden and planted our first fruit trees. They chose street trees that are especially attractive to birds. Berry bushes and a bioswale with deep-rooted native plants are the next planting projects. The top of our hill commands a long panoramic view of the south side of our city and the countryside beyond. We have grants and zero-interest loans to support sustainable stormwater management features on our hillside.
Prairie Hill is within walking and easy biking distance of many restaurants and other eateries, a grocery store, a fitness center, and most of the businesses and services folks use in everyday life. The University of Iowa law school, health science schools, hospital and stadium are less than a cross-country mile’s walk. The lively business and cultural center of Iowa City is just over a mile away, and two city bus routes have stops within a block or so of Prairie Hill. Excellent schools are nearby. A major new city park with trails, community gardens, an amphitheater and facilities for land and water activities is under development along the Iowa River just a few blocks from Prairie Hill, and a small neighborhood park with play equipment abuts the site.
Iowa City is a small cosmopolitan city which is highly rated in several national assessments of best places to live. It is home to the University of Iowa with its Big 10 sports and large teaching hospital. There are a VA hospital and a community hospital here, too. Featuring the university’s renowned Writers’ Workshop and International Writing Program, independent bookstores, and a vast community of writers, Iowa City is the first American city designated a UNESCO City of Literature. The university opened a magnificent new performing arts center and new art and music buildings in 2016, and a new art museum is awaiting construction. These state-of-the-art, architecturally significant facilities replace buildings destroyed in a major flood in 2008. (Prairie Hill is not in the floodplain.) Iowa City and the University of Iowa both have silver ratings for bicycle-friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists. Since 2016, Iowa City has been the location of an annual international Cyclo-cross World Cup race. The city has approved a plan for a comprehensive complete bike trail network.
Building and site plans and information about our cohousing community are on our website at iowacitycohousing.org. We have a Facebook page at https://facebook.com/iowacitycohousing/ and a blog at http://prairiehillcohousing.blogspot.com/. Contact us directly for further information at iowacitycohousing [at] gmail [dot] com.
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