BUSINESS PROFILE: REALIFE COOPERATIVE AT MUELLER GARDENS
Cooperative living in a peaceful St. Cloud neighborhood
BY SCOTT THOMA
Some people enjoy owning a home close to the city where they can shop, visit museums, or attend an entertainment venue. Others may prefer living in a country setting where they can enjoy nature in a peaceful surrounding.
At Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens, homeowners can enjoy both worlds.
The 50-unit cooperative, currently housing 61 residents, is set in a residential area west of St. Cloud, nestled in among pine trees that give you the feeling of a country atmosphere. Deer, squirrels, and birds of all kinds are often seen by the residents.
“It’s a very appealing setting,” said Mary Lee Kragenbring, who has resided at the campus west of St. Cloud for 13 years. “There is a lot of acreage, gardens, and prairie grass that make it look like a country setting. But it’s also close enough to the city in case you want to do something there too.”
Recently, Gail and Jerry Boelter bought a unit at Realife Cooperative in September. A month later, Gail’s mother, Lucille Moore, also purchased a unit.
“We really like it here,” said Lucille. “The people are really nice, and it feels like a big family.”
“Before we put our name on the waiting list, we came here to look around and we were really impressed,” said Gail. “We were so glad when a home became available.”
Jerry has been dealing with some health issues, and moving into Realife Cooperative allowed him to be closer to the St. Cloud VA Healthcare System.
“It’s right down the road from here,” he said. “But yet it doesn’t feel like we are living in town. We like owning our own home, but we don’t have any yard work to do.”
The cooperative has a Maintenance Supervisor who keeps things in working order for the residents.
“We like it to be nice and clean here, inside and out,” said Floyd Stockinger, who has been a resident at Realife for four years. “I didn’t want to live somewhere that wasn’t clean, especially during COVID.”
Realife Cooperative held a Summer Fest in July in which residents socialized with potential residents over lunch, coffee, and entertainment.
Overwhelmingly, those individuals and couples on the waiting list were eager to be able to move in.
“It’s important to get on the waiting list as soon as possible,” said one gentleman from the Twin Cities area. “I’m glad we put our name on the list so we can be able to live here when a unit opens up. It’s an ideal place to live.”
Realife Cooperative is a form of multi-home ownership and is its own not-for-profit organization, solely owned and operated by the residents who live there.
The cooperative is a three-floor complex for those individuals 55-and-older. Tenants own their “home within a home.”
Brenda Williams has been the Housing Association Manager since the cooperative began in 2006.
“The residents are free to do what they want to make their home comfortable and enjoyable,” Williams said. “If they want to paint their home, they can. It’s their home.”
Currently, there are 22 original charter members living at Realife Cooperative.
This cooperative is more than a building where people keep to themselves. They interact with one another like a big family, offering assistance to those in need.
“You don’t have to go far to find someone that is willing to help you,” said Linda Urbik. “We all support each other as much as possible.”
The homeowners have no one to oversee their decisions and set rules. Realife Cooperative is owned collectively by its resident members, who elect a board of directors that provide direction to a management staff.
Residents can volunteer to be members of various committees to give them a better understanding and have more control to be able to make decisions that benefit the cooperative. Committees range from Grounds/Landscaping, Finance, Library, Garden, Building, Marketing, Kitchen, Entertainment, and Security.
Potential homeowners can choose from the following 10 different floor plans:
1 bedroom, 1 bath, 702 square feet
1 bedroom. 1 bath, 852 square feet
2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1,067 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,179 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,202 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,213 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,239 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,362 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, den, 1,391 square feet
2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,452 square feet
Unit features include individual heating/cooling system, 36-inch doorways for easier wheelchair/walker access, lever door handles, large bi-level islands, dishwashers, step-in showers, comfort-height toilets, patios/decks, and phone/internet/television package.
“Each owner also gets a storage space,” Williams said. “We also have raised dishwashers and dryers to make it easier for someone who might have a bad back.”
When a unit becomes available for sale, residents currently living at Realife Cooperative are given the first choice of purchasing it because they may want a bigger or smaller unit than the one that they currently own.
Among the other amenities available at Realife Cooperative is a large woodworking shop with many hand and power tools, a craft room, library/activity room, large garden area, fenced-in patio area with grills, seven laundry rooms, a heated secure vehicle parking area with a car wash bay, wellness room, fully-equipped kitchen with a large dining area, and a guest suite.
“If you’re bored here, it’s your own fault,” said Jan Sorrell with a smile. “There are plenty of things going on. If there is something you wish they had here, you can start a committee and get it done.”
Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens is located at 6670 Northwood Lane in St. Cloud. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 320-258-3094 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, or from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday.
Those interested can also email email@example.com, visit their website at www.realifecoopmuellergardens.org or visit them on Facebook.
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