Denver-based developer Robert S. Dick, president of Circle Development Corp., a nonprofit established for the Silver Leaf Cohousing project in Paonia, Colo., died Aug. 13, after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 67.
Dick saw Silver Leaf, intended for the elderly, as the culmination of his career devoted to affordable housing and fostering community. The project, designed by a team led by 3Cycle Studio, consists of 10 detached single-family homes and one duplex. It is designed for and with the people intending to live there. The houses are approximately 950 sq ft, laid out mostly on one level and universally designed to be wheelchair accessible. They are designed to facilitate aging in place physically, socially and spiritually, according to Silver Leaf.
Cohousing is an intentional community of private residences clustered around shared space, according to the Cohousing Association. Silver Leaf will have a common house, which will include a large communal kitchen and dining area, as well as other common space. The site plan is designed to maximize passive solar gain and preserve as much open space as possible. Nearly all of the houses are spoken for, says Mara Mantoiu, 3Cycle's architectural designer.
Dick made plans for the project to continue moving forward, she adds. "We are hoping to break ground this fall with the utilities and perhaps start on some of the houses."
Mantoiu met Dick a little over a year ago. "Rob was a very inspiring person to work for and work with," she says. "In just one year, I got very attached."
Born on July 10,1949, Dick grew up mostly in Great Neck, N.Y. In 1971 he graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo, now known as the University at Buffalo. Early on he worked for investment firms E.F. Hutton, in Denver, and Smith Barney, in San Francisco, where he became a member of the planning commission. His specialty was putting together deals for federal-government-subsidized affordable housing projects. In 1989 he moved to Minneapolis, where he went into real estate development, specializing in smaller residential projects.
Almost two decades ago, he moved to Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he developed Tamarac Point and the Meadows and Terraces at Eagle Ridge. During his tenure as the head of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, he led renovation projects in Steamboat. He also created two cohousing projects, Butcherknife and River Place.
More interested in spreading the cohousing-for-elders concept than in making money from Silver Leaf, Dick said recently, “If I were a younger man, I would make elder projects like this my business. I love this project, and it incorporates almost everything I have learned about housing and development over the years.”
Mantoiu recalls, "Rob used to say this was the best project he'd ever done. He was so into it and that was a bit of a motor for us."