Editor’s note: This is the next in our Where We Live series exploring Tucson neighborhoods — the homes, the vibes, the people.
The kids have the run of the place at Stone Curves.
There’s a secret clubhouse for children only, tucked away under a sprawling palo verde. There are tunnels to explore, fruit trees to climb, a kid band to jam with, regular sleepovers and never-ending games of tag.
It’s like one giant play date with friends, who happen to be neighbors in this cohousing community where Stone Avenue curves, just south of Limberlost Road.
“I like it here because we can do whatever we want and we can be kids,” said Simone Gomez, 11. “In my old neighborhood there weren’t any children. I was just inside all day and now I am outside all of the time.”
Zayk Cronyn, 10, likes the friendships he’s made at Stone Curves.
“It’s all different age ranges, from preschool to babies to elderly people. I feel like I can go to anyone if I need anything,” he said.
That sense of community powers this neighborhood, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this spring.
“You really are part of a community,” said Sylvia Tesh, who has lived at Stone Curves since 2006. “I know every single person that lives here. You can count on people. It’s very enveloping.”
Stone Curves sits on 5.1 acres that once served as a farm and ranch. The community was designed and built by husband-and-wife team James Hamilton and Diane de Simone, with input from future residents who had a vision for what cohousing could be.
Stone Curves is the youngest of three cohousing communities in Tucson, coming on the heels of Sonora Cohousing and Milagro Cohousing. It is larger than most communities of its kind, with 48 condominium homes and 120 residents sharing privileges and responsibilities.
“The intention is for communities to come together and share resources rather than pulling into your garage and closing the doors and never knowing your neighbors,” said Shawn Mulligan, who has lived at Stone Curves since the inception.
While cohousing communities might share the strong sense of community found in the storied communes of old, residents maintain separate homes and incomes are never shared, according to the Stone Curves website.
The design is intentional, with all parking on the perimeter. At the heart of Stone Curves are the community facilities, with a pool, a 3,850-square-foot Common House built around an open courtyard, a dining room, chicken coops, garden, expansive lawn, playground, workshop, dog park and other amenities.
It’s an outdoor paradise for kids at a time when many children are hesitant to leave the air-conditioned comfort of video games and Netflix.
“The kids are a lot more free to run and roam,” Mulligan said. “This neighborhood was designed to be kid and family centered. The neighborhood has an eye on each other. There is always an adult who is the point person, watching out for the kids.”
Residents serve on teams that keep Stone Curves running smoothly. Adults volunteer five hours a month tending the garden, feeding chickens, keeping financial records, maintaining grounds, cooking a community meal, taking part in composting and water harvesting duties, shelving books in the library and more.
Homes — which range in size from one bedroom to four — surround the community areas. The 48 condos are divided into five villages, which come with their own responsibilities. Homes range in price from $90,000 to $200,000.
Stone Curves is self-governed, with residents meeting monthly to discuss issues and plan for the future. All decisions are made by consensus, and every member of the community — renter or owner — has an equal voice in decision making, according to residents. Only owners make decisions regarding the expenditure of community funds.
Bree Rodriguez, mom of Simone Gomez, has lived at Stone Curves for three years.
“I wanted a place where she could just go outside and this is the place I found, a place where you know everybody,” Rodriguez said.
Said Ben Sargus, 11, “When we were at my old neighborhood I could only play with my friends on the weekends. Now when I finish my homework, I knock on doors and have friends to play with.”
That is what his mom, Tamara Sargus, loves most about Stone Curves.
“They do so much more imaginative play,” she said, with 3-year-old daughter Mila on her lap. “They make up games.”
Interaction between the generations is important at Stone Curves. Zayk Cronyn told of his older brother, Avery, who worked with an elder to determine why chickens were disappearing, which required them to spend an evening in the chicken coop. It turns out a bobcat was to blame for the disappearances.
Residents benefit from the fruit of their labors, in the form of friendships but also in the abundant garden, with tomatoes, peas, chard, herbs, bell pepper and rosemary and the fruit trees scattered throughout – fig, apricot, apple, peach, plum, citrus and pomegranate.
There are monthly community birthday dinners, barbecues, wine tastings, holiday parties and s’mores around the fire pit. In the warm months, there are YouTube nights on the lawn, with a screen and projector set up to show favorite videos, as selected by kids and adults.
Living in a community is never problem-free, but residents work together to find solutions. If conflict arises among kids, Gina Kruse, a retired school counselor who was one of the original residents along with husband, Dan, works with children to resolve the issues.
Retired educator Ania Rzeszutko took part in the development of the neighborhood.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a utopia, but our ideas were lofty,” she said. “I like the fact that we all have work share. We are all physically contributing to the running of the community.”
Mulligan, a nurse, said the community benefits from sharing resources and friendships.
She created a tortoise habitat in the patio outside her three-bedroom, three-bathroom home, designing it so neighborhood children could check in on Anastasia Pernilla Sunshine in her habitat. Mulligan and her daughter, Hannah Gardner, 18, share the home, with beautiful bedroom balconies and a creative use of space.
“This is the first time I have lived in an urban setting,” Mulligan said. “But when you come in from the parking lot and wander in here, you feel peaceful and calm. It’s a little oasis.”
For her daughter, who was 8 when her family moved to Stone Curves, cohousing has been a good launching pad for life.
“I love the interesting, diverse people in the neighborhood,” Gardner said. “It’s given me many interesting perspectives to grow up with and insight into different ways to look at the world.”