Move into a neighborhood and there are bound to be growing pains. Build that neighborhood from the ground up around a vision of collective living and the list of surprises can run long.
Oakcreek Community opened about five years ago in Stillwater, Okla. Most of the original 12 residents (or "members") weren’t friends; in fact, many barely knew of each other. But they wanted to find a way to retire comfortably in the college town about an hour from Oklahoma City and not fall into the trap of loneliness and isolation.
"Just the thought of my kids putting me somewhere makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up," said Pat Darlington, a 66-year-old psychologist and the galvanizing force behind the community.
Soon after she learned about the concept of cohousing, a planned community that residents run together, a friend suggested she reach out to Kay Stewart, another Oakcreek resident, who at the time ran a home health care business.
Stewart had spent her career dealing with aging, and the social, moral and emotional support that such a close-knit neighborhood seemed to promise instantly struck a chord. "I recognized right away that the feeling of community was the piece I’ve been missing all these years," said Stewart, 76.
The project was a leap of faith: If it succeeded, it would become the first cohousing community in Oklahoma. The original members invested their savings, hired architect McCamant & Durrett of Nevada City, Calif., and bought a 7½-acre wooded site with a creek (hence the name).
The plot was near restaurants, shops, walking paths and Oklahoma State University sports venues. Shovels hit the ground for the $5 million development in January 2012, and by that October, the first residents moved in, selling their large suburban homes to buy Oakcreek's much smaller ones. All the homes were occupied by March 2013.