More than 80 Summit seniors showed up at Tuesday’s county commission meeting to support plans for a proposed retirement community. Initial plans presented by Minnesota-based developer Augustana Care include three phases: Subsidized independent housing units, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities.
Through discussions with the county, a 4.5-acre parcel near Frisco, deemed the “Hillside Parcel,” could be set aside for the project. The initial phase one plan would involve 28 independent housing units in a two-story building, allowing access to nearby health resources, with phase two creating 22 assisted living units and phase three creating 40 skilled nursing units.
“From what I understand, they feel it certainly is a viable piece of property for building something that is desperately needed here,” said Andy Searls, Senior Housing Taskforce chairman.
She expects a spike in the needs of Summit seniors in upcoming years. Summit County’s 65-and-up population was the fastest growing group of all Colorado counties between 2000 and 2010, at 180 percent growth, according to a July 2014 report by the Colorado Demography Office.
As it stands right now, the county is lagging behind the demand for senior care, with limited resources for those with disabilities or health concerns. The Timberline Adult Daycare Facility and in-home care are the only options currently on the table.
“If you have difficulty in doing daily chores, it all has to be in-home care or you have to go elsewhere,” assistant county manager Scott Vargo said.
The Hillside project is currently in phase two of the feasibility study, addressing infrastructure costs. For the entire project, infrastructure costs stand at about $2.55 million, with the largest cost stemming from the need to address the steep grade of the site, using a fill and retaining wall with a $944,760 pricetag.
“It’s not insurmountable but it’s a challenge. We’re looking at one concept and it hasn’t been refined yet,” Tambi Katieb, principal of Land Planning Cooperative, said.
Chris Durloo, a project manager for Tetra Tech engineering, noted that another piece of the cost would be to create a new booster station for the site’s water pressure. Another challenge with the location is that an industrial site would be just next door, with work continuing into the early hours of the morning.
Frisco was selected as an ideal location as the retirement community could be placed near the County Commons, just adjacent to the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, the Community and Senior Center, the library, public transit and several other amenities.
“There were some challenges to this site, but we don’t have a whole lot of other options available,” Vargo said. “Frisco was far and away the number one choice for a location because of that proximity.”
Katieb hoped low-income housing grants could potentially be used to help finance the project. The independent living apartments will be targeted to low-income seniors. However, the assisted living and skilled nursing facilities will not be income restricted, but will include a few beds reserved for Medicare or Medicaid patients.
Vargo said that the next step of the project will involve working with Augustana on a memorandum of understanding to continue to pursue tax credit financing. The company has been involved with the project for several years, and has worked not only as the developer, but the operator in previous projects. The plan is to construct independent living apartments in one to three years, an assisted living complex in five to 10 years, and the skilled nursing facility in 10 to 20 years.
Some seniors turn to affordable housing units as a means of survival in Summit. Karen Degenhart, creator of nonprofit Earth Medicine Housing, Inc., said she moved to Silverthorne to receive the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program, a housing voucher offered by the government that was previously available in Summit.
She hopes to use her experiences in working with affordable housing to create affordable, eco-friendly spaces for others, who are often waitlisted.
“I’m interested in housing. … I could do something like Habitat for Humanity already does, one house at a time,” Degenhart said. “As you can tell from this meeting, in Summit County there’s no land; it’s expensive.”
The results of a 2009 survey revealed a high demand for senior housing in Summit County, as the vast majority of those surveyed planned to retire in the county. At the time of the survey, there was a demand for 77 independent living units, and 57 assisted living or skilled nursing units. Since then, the senior population and demand has only continued to increase.
A key factor in the survey was the financial needs of current or upcoming seniors. Of the 404 respondents, ages 45 and up, 19 percent had an income of $50,000 or less, and 9 percent have assets of $100,000 or less. In addition, 23 percent of the respondents indicated a possible future need for senior housing.
“We don’t have anything like this in the county. And we’re one of the only counties without it,” Linda Venturoni, director of new business development for Augustana Care said of the senior housing project. “It’s a lot easier having these people in one facility than trying to piecemeal these services together.”
Augustana saw success earlier this year, with the groundbreaking of a nursing and assisted living facility in Eagle County after a capital campaign raised sufficient funds. While the facility will not open until 2016, Venturoni said she had already compiled a list of 50 people who had expressed an interest.
“There’s a definite need,” Venturoni said.
She hopes that the facility in Eagle will drive interest for a similar project in Summit.