build it and they will come
New Hampshire developers take a more conventional
approach to creating a cohousing community — and it seems to be working
Written by EDGAR ALLEN BEEM
developing it. Designed by O’Neil Pennoyer
Architects of Groton, Massachusetts, Nubanusit
focused development on just four of the community’s 70 acres. Cars are kept in a garage at the
edge of the developed area, making Nubanusit a
very pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
PHO TOS B Y CLIVE RUSS
The homes are arranged in three “pods,”
with front doors facing common areas and rear
views to private areas and natural landscapes.
One of the Nubanusit single-family dwellings was
the first home in New Hampshire to win LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design) Platinum certification from the U.S.
Green Building Council, but all of the homes
were built to LEED specifications. Features
include 7-inch cellulose insulation, triple-pane
windows, piping for solar hot water, and a wood
pellet boiler plant that heats all the homes.
Motives for moving to a cohousing community range
from empty-nest syndrome to a
desire for a back-to-nature lifestyle. But whatever prompted
the move, residents at Nubanusit Neighborhood
and Farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire,
now share a common goal: to work collaboratively to make life better for the whole.
That sounds like the mantra for communal
living, but at Nubanusit, the means to that end
was a more conventional development model
than cohousing communities typically use.
Of those, “only 10 percent actually succeed,”
says Shelley Goguen Hulbert, who developed
Nubanusit with her husband, Robin, and Sage
Wheeler and Richard Pendleton.
In general, cohousing communities marry
a condominium form of ownership with a cooperative management strategy aimed at fostering
community. In Nubanusit’s case, there is also a
commitment to sustainability. “There’s nothing
like [Nubanusit] in terms of quality, energy-efficiency, or design,” says Goguen Hulbert.
Nubanusit is among the latest of some 120
cohousing communities in the United States,
developments that are intentionally designed
so that residents own the land in common and
share resources ranging from outdoor spaces to
meals. There are currently 34 cohousing projects
planned or completed in New England.
Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm, named
for the river that forms one of its boundaries, is
a tightly clustered compound of 18 red-cedar-clad buildings, each a pitched-roof American
Gothic structure in the traditional New England
vernacular. Located within walking distance
of the picturesque village of Peterborough,
Nubanusit offers 29 residential units — seven
single-family homes, seven duplexes, and two
fourplexes — ranging in size from 1, 100 square
feet to 1,888 square feet and in price from
$345,000 to $625,000. The homes are small by
American standards, but then that’s part of the
cohousing ideal. Since the project was completed last year, 19 of the units have been sold,
and are occupied by a total of 34 people ranging
in age from 2 to 72.
The Nubi River Partners purchased the
property, site of an old inn complex, in 2004
for $970,000 and then invested $14 million in
Nubanusit is at the high end of the cohousing price spectrum. Two three-bedroom homes
at Rocky Hill Cohousing in Northampton,
Massachusetts, for example, are currently on the
market for $360,000, while a pair of two-bedroom
duplexes at Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland,
Vermont, cost $268,000 and $290,000.
Nubanusit resident Jeff Drake, however,
believes that his eco-friendly neighborhood is
worth it. “A lot of the costs we’re paying upfront
are being saved over the long run,” says Drake.
“Heating only costs us about $30 a month.”
Nubanusit has a 4,200-square-foot Common
House with two rooms available for overnight
guests, and spaces for celebrations, meetings, and
recreation, but the original 19th-century farmhouse on the property, which once belonged to
Gov. John Steele, has been refurbished as office
space for both residents and nonresidents.
Says Goguen Hulbert, sounding the cohousing mantra, “We are choosing to share.”
the architecture at Nubanusit
(above) reflects the New England
vernacular. Boulders edge the pond
(left) where two three-bedroom
duplexes have a water view.
Nubanusit Neighborhood and