EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT BUILDING AND LIVING IN THE RACHEL CARSON ECOVILLAGE . . . almost

Please Note: The answers here should all be prefaced with “It is likely that…” or “Probably…” since we are just beginning the formation of the ecovillage. Some (like the cost of the units) will depend on information we don’t know yet. Others will depend on what the community decides. Here is the best approximation we have to the answers at this point.

DEVELOPMENT

When will the units be ready to move in?

If all goes well, in early 2024. We are targeting a construction start in spring 2023. The ecovillage will be built as a single project under a single construction contract. Until we have more information, we are assuming the project will take 12 months to build.

What will the homeowners own?

Each household owns their unit (the structure) and an equal share of the common facilities. The form of ownership is condominium. According to the terms of the bequest of the campus land to Chatham, the university must retain ownership of the property. The EcoVillage will have a long-term (ie, 99-year) “ground lease”.

What will the housing units cost?

The sales price includes both the unit and the shared common facilities, and it covers the cost of construction, planning, and development. This is based on 2021 estimates and can only be taken as a general idea of the range of prices:

Studio $180 – $220,000
One-bedroom $220 – $350,000
Two-bedroom: $390 – $490,000
Two-bedroom suite: $500 – 550,000

Will we be able to take part in Chatham University activities or use their facilities?

The public is already welcome to enjoy the campus trails and the natural environment, free public concerts and events, and dining at the Barazzone Center. The EcoVillage is working with Chatham to define residents’ access to academic functions and other campus amenities for a monthly “campus residency fee” that will be part of the RCE homeowner fee.

What will be the monthly fee?

Monthly maintenance charges will include operating expenses, insurance, debt service, and capital reserves but do not include utilities for individual units. They will also cover the activities fee and a share of the ground lease. The amount will be determined by the community. Our target is in the range of $300-350. Like other co-housing communities, we will that have a program of shared volunteer work to keep our fees lower.

Where will the financing for the ecovillage come from?

Short-term construction financing will be arranged by Rachel Carson Ecovillage LLC (our legal entity). Terms will depend on the number of committed units. Owners will take possession as soon as the construction is finished. Permanent financing will be the responsibility of each homeowner, just as in conventional housing.

If I can’t afford to buy a unit, is it possible to rent?

Our LLC will own one unit funded by a grant to provide low-cost housing for an individual with intellectual disabilities. However, several Equity members are interested in shared housing options, which may make rental options available for other members. Renting residents will have all the same rights and responsibilities as owners, except in matters relating to expenditure of money.

Will there be a selection process for membership?

No. Experience has shown that self-selection is the best way to form a community. The community attracts people who are looking to be active community members. We conduct a meeting with each prospective Equity Member household to be certain that they are fully prepared for whatever risks they are assuming and for active participation in community decision-making.

How do people join the Ecovillage? What does it cost?

Please refer to the “Become a Member” section of the website, which explains the three-step “path” to membership: Inquirer→Explorer→ Equity. Fees paid are non-refundable because they are used to cover the costs of developing the project. However, they are counted toward the cost of each household’s unit. Once we are living in the community, we may offer associate memberships to non- residents interested in participating in meals and other activities.

How is risk managed in the development of the Ecovillage?

Without a developer, risk is shared by the Equity members. The risks in developing cohousing are often related to acquiring property and the approvals to build on the property. Building on the Eden Hall campus significantly reduces those risks. The biggest uncertainty is whether we will attract enough members to commit to the project early enough to get it to construction. There is no point prior to construction when the project becomes a definite “go”. Instead, the development process, as long as it continues to move ahead, progressively reduces the risk and makes the project more certain. The most critical factor is adding new members in a timely way.

What are the advantages to committing to Equity Membership early?

One advantage is that the earlier you come into the group, the more opportunity you have to be a part of the planning, though as a “pioneer”, you’ll be putting more time into the development process. You will get an earlier place in the order in which units will be selected.

When will I be able to select my unit?

All units will be selected once the final construction documents and pricing are complete. This will be shortly before construction begins. Pioneer Equity Members, because they have taken the most risk, precede all others in the selection process. Their selection is in the order in which they signed up.  Pathfinder Equity Members will then select their units in the order in which they signed up. Any remaining units will be available to Explorer members.

Who will build the project?

In high-performance design, the contractor is an essential part of the planning team. We selected Jendoco Construction Corporation as our general contractor early in the design process on the basis of the quality and cost-effectiveness of their past projects, recommendations from clients, their capabilities in high-performance construction, and their interest in the project.

Who is RCE’s professional design team?

Our multi-disciplinary team includes architects/landscape architects (evolveEA), civil engineers (Civil and Environmental Consultants), ecological designers (Fourth River Workers Guild and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates), building performance consultants (AUROS Group), constructability and costing (Jendoco), and offsite fabricators (Blueprint Robotics).

What kind of approvals are needed?

Richland Township will require approval of the project for compliance with the Eden Hall Campus Master Plan (zoning) and approval of its proposed land development plan.  The Township has already granted approval for the Master Plan change.  RCE has submitted its plans for the Land Development Permit.  The Allegheny Valley Sewer Authority has to approve a request for water and sewer “taps” and Allegheny County for stormwater management.  These applications have also been submitted. Before construction can start, the project will also have to obtain a building permit.