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South Main co-housing project welcomes residents in search of community

With the snip of a pair of large, shiny scissors, four-year-old Leo cut the ribbon to officially open Our Urban Village, the co-housing project where he lives with his parents.

"We are very social and we also like the idea of getting to know our neighbours and doing activities with them. And also getting Leo involved with other kids,” said Gabriela Martinez, Leo’s mom.

Owners first began moving into the complex on Main Street near East 41st Avenue in mid-summer, but many of them have been involved with the project since the initial planning stages.

“I joined in July of 2019,” said Cathy Sevcik, who owns a unit in the building. “What I really wanted was to be living with people who I knew, felt supported by and had connections with.”

The developer took two standard single-family lots and demolished the existing homes to build the 12-unit complex.

The ownership structure is very similar to a typical strata corporation – but the building is designed for people seeking a much greater sense of community.

Since moving in, residents have been getting together twice a week to share meals in the communal kitchen.

And the building is designed with exterior walkways, large landings, and a courtyard, creating spaces for people to gather.

"The remarkable thing about this project is that the architect, the developers, and the future residents all came together to build a place that uses space more efficiently but also was designed to nurture social relationships,” said Charles Montgomery, principal of Happy Cities, an urban planning design, research and consulting firm.

While not the first co-housing project in Vancouver, Our Urban Village is an experiment of sorts – because Happy Cities will study the residents for the next two years.

"(We're looking at) how they connect, where they connect, how they feel about each other and their levels of trust for one another,” said Montgomery.

To encourage a diverse range of owners, the building has a mix of units from small studios to three-bedroom townhomes.

Each individual unit is equipped with all the cooking and living amenities one would expect in a modern condo, so residents don’t have to be social all the time.

"I had hoped that I would feel really nestled in a great community and I really like my unit, I really like the building, and I really like how neighbourly it feels,” said Sevcik. Top Stories

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