A conversation with Warwick Powell | Local Vocal | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A conversation with Warwick Powell

Regent Square resident Warwick Powell and his wife, Wendy Hardman, belong to a tight-knit group of families who aspire to cohousing, a collective living arrangement popularized in Scandinavia. The small group is recruiting a few more families to share a property and will hold an informational meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on Sun., Nov. 18, at the Nuin Center, 5655 Bryant St., in Highland Park. For more information, see www.pittsburghcohousing.org.

What appeals to you most about cohousing?

The community aspect of it. By that we mean having a supportive group of neighbors who help each other out on a regular basis or in a crisis. It is nice to have a community that includes all ages, from the very young to the young 90-year-olds. In addition, it is appealing to share some resources.  For example, some people may want to save money by sharing a washing machine, a lawn mower or a car.

What will your cohouse be like?

Our vision for cohousing includes a multigenerational, child-friendly environment within easy access to downtown Pittsburgh. We value energy- and resource-efficient design, good architecture and natural beauty. We have no common political or religious orientation, only a common desire to live in a community that is a neighborhood in the best sense of the word.

You now live in Regent Square. Can you possibly do cohousing there?

We could do cohousing anywhere -- urban, rural, warehouse, greenfield or brownfield sites, or combinations of existing buildings and adjacent clear space. We will design according to the site and the desires of the group. It all depends on where we find an acceptable site, including Regent Square, although that is unlikely because of the challenge of finding enough land.

How would cohousing change how you live?

We would know our neighbors better than we do now. We would probably have meals with them every week -- and perhaps share other common events, [such as] celebrations. We might watch each other's children when needed, share rides to the store or work, and maintain our grounds jointly. We would still have the privacy of our own home, but the pleasure of a closer community. We would hope to continue to have easy access to shops, restaurants, entertainment and parks, as we currently do.

How did you realize cohousing is for you?

We have been interested in cohousing for years, intrigued by the notion of living in community. When a friend sent us an e-mail about the Pittsburgh group, we decided to check them out and have been involved ever since.

How do other people react to the idea of cohousing?

Most people don't know what it is and are curious about it. When we describe it they react favorably. 

You said a few families are interested. What got them curious?

Some of them had heard about or experienced cohousing through friends, their travels or simply through their reading and were -- and are -- fascinated.

What is your game plan?

We are growing our committed household base to 10 to 12 and are very close to that number now. Once that number is reached, we will review potential sites, employ a developer and aim to have some of the community moving into finished units in late 2008.

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