“It is the project with the social context that is the closest to my heart in my career.”
– David Mogavero
A hallmark Mogavero Architects project, Southside Park Cohousing, turns thirty years old this month. The 25-unit intentional community in the Southside Park neighborhood of Downtown Sacramento was instrumental in the revitalization of the area and remains a fully self-sustaining, symbiotic ecosystem of individuals and families.
“[Southside Cohousing] is a perfect example of the combination of our multi-disciplinary firm implementing planning strategies, development know-how, and thoughtful architecture to create a strong community that provided a catalyst in the neighborhood.” – Craig Stradley
Based upon the principles of the Danish co-housing model, the project was designed in a manner that places the utmost value in community interaction and cohabitation. A group of approximately 8-12 families, who eventually grew to become the Southside Cohousing inaugural residents, engaged Mogavero in the late 1980s to be the project’s development manager, architect, and advocate. The families and individuals that would inhabit the project came from diverse backgrounds in terms of income, age, race, and ability. The firm worked with each resident to determine equitable ways in which all could participate in the planning, development, and financing of the project.
The future home of Southside Park Cohousing was identified at 4th and T Streets by Mogavero and the firm advocated for its purchase by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA). SHRA issued a request for proposals for the site, as is customary with public acquisitions, and Mogavero was selected as the preferred architect of the project. The neighborhood, small and bound by freeways, was blighted through the 1980s and early 1990s. Drug crimes and solicitation were not uncommon for the area and the site itself contained two dilapidated structures that were being used for illicit substance trade. Project Development Leader David Mogavero noted how the project altered this reality, stating that “A modest intervention like Southside made a significant difference. The residents immediately became active and dramatically turned the neighborhood into a stable one.”
Over the next several years, the firm assisted the group nearly every step of the way. From site identification, acquisition, development financing, project programming, drafting of HOA documents, loan closing, and construction oversite, tenants and the firm worked hand-in-hand to custom tailor the project to the community’s needs. Describing the complicated design process, Architect Craig Stradley stated “I worked with 5 separate groups within the Southside Cohousing group designing their 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom homes along with the renovation of the two-unit historic house at the corner of 5th and T. The architectural design responded to the Southside Historic district.”
The decision to create a family-friendly safe haven in the midst of a state capital’s ever-changing, metropolitan downtown came naturally to the project’s founding residents. Founding member Dale Crandall-Bear stated “We wanted to reduce our dependence on driving everywhere, and we didn’t want to run away from reality to the suburbs. We knew that raising children in the inner-city would be a challenge, but there is security in being in a group.”
The result of their diligent efforts opened its doors to the new community in 1993. The townhome-style residential units are situated around communal facilities that house onsite laundry, a kitchen, dining space, and garden. The 25 residences vary in size and scope as to encourage household size diversity – consisting of 4 one-bedrooms, 9 two-bedrooms, 8 three-bedrooms, and 4 four-bedroom units.
“Intentional communities can be wonderful institutions for residents and their surroundings. People have solidarity with their cofounders and are thus willing to be more adventurous in their neighborhood choices. This allows it to be a tool for enhancing neighborhoods.” – David Mogavero
Today, the Southside Park Cohousing Community continues to function and thrive exactly as the project’s founding members intended. The 25 families that inhabit it share responsibility in maintaining the property, take part in regular potlucks and movie nights in the community building, and harvest homegrown produce from the shared garden boxes. In the rare instance of one of the units going up for sale, residents are quick to share the opportunity with friends and family on their social networks, with one recent Facebook post reading “Help us spread the word to find our neighbor!”
The vibrant community is now a multigenerational cornerstone of the Southside Park neighborhood and shows no signs of straying from its original vision of a synergetic, family-friendly, cooperative place to call home. Congratulations Southside Cohousing and cheers to the next 30 years!