Marie Owen wants to create a greater sense of community between her neighbors and the rest of the city through the concept of co-housing.
Owen, 62, a freelance graphic designer, went to Murrah High School and attended college at the University of Southern Mississippi before living in California and Texas. After graduating, she returned to Jackson 32 years ago. She now creates logos and brochures for businesses in Jackson.
The Jackson native learned about co-housing from a 2009 USA Today article. A co-housing community is a group of houses or a neighborhood built with the intention of creating a collaborative community. The concept came from Denmark about 20 years ago. Today, North America has about 120 co-housing communities.
"(A co-housing neighborhood) is a neighborhood that's turned inside out. Our neighborhoods now are built for cars, not people," Owen says. "What you see are garages; you don't see your neighbors. Co-housing neighborhoods have cars on the outside and houses that face inside with sidewalks, courtyards, gardens and playgrounds."
Owen and her sister Hilda Owen attended the Cohousing Conference 2010 in Boulder, Colo., last June, and started laying the groundwork to form a co-housing community in Jackson. Over the past year, the pair has hosted formal meetings and socials to educate Jacksonians about the concept. The Jackson group of 15 people actively searches for sites to build a community.
In April, Owen brought architects Charles Durrett and Katie McCamant, the foremost experts on co-housing, to Jackson to speak and lead a workshop titled "Intentionally Building Community." The workshop broke down the logistics such as finances and making group decisions. On the last day, the group toured potential co-housing sites in downtown Jackson and the surrounding areas. About 70 people attended the lecture, and 15 attended the workshop.
"(The Jackson group) likes knowing their neighbors. They want to build a neighborhood that's interesting and fun, but safe and economically feasible, sustainable and environmentally conscious," Owen says. "But more than that, they want to have fun."
Owen envisions numerous co-housing developments in Jackson and across the state of Mississippi. Co-housing communities often revitalize neighborhoods and create a place where neighbors sit down and have dinner together, host events and become more like family members.
When she's not designing or creating Mississippi's first official co-housing community, Owen loves to read, knit, go to the movies and teach yoga to a group in her neighborhood. She is also the chairwoman of worship at Broadmeadow Methodist Church.
I've been interested in Co-Housing for quite some time, whether by that name or "Intentional Community."
I really hope it catches on and we can see some great Co-Housing developments start popping up around Mississippi.