Senior housing proposed in downtown Danville, Ill.

Mar. 2--DANVILLE -- The former American Red Cross building site has been a hotbed of interest as two groups looked at the west downtown location for senior housing projects.

Both groups were out of northwest Indiana, with the first group, Mecca Corp., more lax in its pursuits, according to Danville Planning and Zoning Manager Chris Milliken.

The Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission now will consider a request from Sterling Development of Mishawaka, Ind., for a planned unit development designation for the property, 320 N. Franklin St. The site would become a multi-story senior housing complex with associated services.

The request follows another PUD designation the commission already approved for Mercy Housing Lakefront of Chicago to build senior housing on the former Provena United Samaritans Medical Center Sager campus property.

It also is expected to open next year.

Heritage Place at Towne Centre on Franklin Street could open in spring 2010 with state tax credit and city approval.

The four-story building will house 72 units -- 32 one-bedroom and 40 two-bedroom units.

The estimated cost for the project is $7.2 million.

The former American Red Cross building will be torn down and the parking lot also removed.

"We will be grading that site and lowering the hill and putting in a retention pond," said John VanMeeter, director of development with Sterling Development.

He said construction could ideally begin in October.

"We've got developments across the Midwest that we own and manage," VanMeeter said. One is in Decatur.

Sterling Group Inc. has been in operation for 35 years.

The developer owns and manages 7,500 apartment units across Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

MEETING A NEED

VanMeeter said Danville and Vermilion County's growing senior population fits into Sterling's market and management plan.

"We felt like there was a need (in Danville)," he said. According to CRIS Senior Services, Vermilion County is the third county in the state with the fastest growing senior population.

The downtown site itself also was pleasing for several reasons.

"We could have chosen a lot of different sites," VanMeeter said.

But the downtown location was ideal for seniors to be within walking distance "to just about everything," he said. This includes museums, grocery and other stores, city hall, the library and post office.

"You couldn't ask for a better senior site," he said.

Financing for the project will come through the state's affordable housing tax credit program.

VanMeeter said Sterling's senior housing development is targeting more moderate-income seniors.

The housing will be limited to lease holders 55 years or older. A spouse or caregiver can also live there, but no one under age 45.

Rents are still to be deter-mined, but will be based on median incomes and could range from $500-$550 for one bedroom and $600-$650 for a two-bedroom apartment. All utilities will be included except electricity.

There will be on-site management and maintenance staff.

VanMeeter has met with West Downtown Neighbor-hood Association members about the project. City officials will make sure the building relates to the surrounding Renaissance area.

Milliken said the public development department has no objections to the development.

Parking, storm sewer detention, landscaping and other requirements must be met.

Milliken added that the first group interested in the site, Mecca Corp., looked to construct parking below the proposed building.

Milliken said Sterling's 72 units is "kind of a lot," but they will be limited to seniors and the company will have to retain ownership and management for at least 15 years under the deed restriction.

He added that the partnership with CRIS, located across the street, will be convenient for both parties.

"We're providing a lot of different amenities," VanMeeter said about the complex's planned beauty salon, community room kitchenette, computer center, library and fitness center.

The PUD designation for the complex provides for: a little more flexibility in building design, smaller setbacks, different parking regulations and incorporates more open green spaces, Milliken has said.

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