Board OKs funds for senior center’s next steps, but more talks slated

Some residents have voiced concerns over the site

Posted 1/30/19

The timeline for building a senior center in Highlands Ranch is being decided by the Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors. At its Jan. 29 meeting, the seven-member governing board …

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Board OKs funds for senior center’s next steps, but more talks slated

Some residents have voiced concerns over the site

Posted

The timeline for building a senior center in Highlands Ranch is being decided by the Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors.

At its Jan. 29 meeting, the seven-member governing board approved some funding for the project’s next steps, but also decided that more discussion was needed before plans could be finalized. The board had been scheduled to vote on whether to approve a proposal from an architecture firm at the meeting, but held off on making that decision.

The Chicago-based architecture firm, Perkins+Will, specializes in public recreational facilities. For the past two years, it has worked with the metro district on studying the need for a senior center in the community.

The proposal in question would require the metro district to pay $430,000, which would cover architect fees and contingency costs associated with the senior center, according to a presentation from metro district staff at a Jan. 23 study session. The metro district’s capital projects fund — funded by developer fees — would cover the portion.

Some board members feared moving forward with the Perkins+Will proposal. To approve what called for nearly a half-million public dollars, board member Nancy Smith said at the Jan. 23 study session, would be “unethical.”

“I think it’s not fiscally responsible,” Smith said.

At the beginning of the Jan. 29 meeting, when the board was to vote on a decision, Terry Nolan, general manager of the metro district, advised the metro district to send out a request for proposal (RFP) to three qualified architecture firms.

Nolan said he was not comfortable moving forward with the Perkins+Will proposal because “the board was split” on the decision.

Last December, the Highlands Ranch Metro District, in partnership with Shea Properties, announced plans to build the community’s first senior center, with attached apartments that Shea calls affordable senior housing, on a plot of land adjacent to Town Center.

Preliminary plans called for construction on the building next door to James H. LaRue library, at the corner of Ridgeline Boulevard and Dorchester Street, to begin early-to-mid 2020, according to the metro district. The proposal calls for opening the building in mid-to-late 2021.

The RFP could slow the process down a few months, Nolan said.

Shea Properties is on a schedule. To use bonds to fund its portion of the project, the building company — which is the developer behind the master-planned community of Highlands Ranch — has to file a site improvement plan with Douglas County and pull a building permit by the end of 2019, Carrie Ward, director of parks, recreation and open space at the metro district, said at the study session.

The 22,000-square-foot senior center, owned by the metro district, would house a lounge, café, kitchen, event space, activity rooms and exercise room. Metro district staff members say it’s too early in the process to put a price on the overall cost.

Shea Properties would cover the cost of land and all costs related to the upper four levels of the facility. Preliminary plans call for 150 apartments.

Board members agreed that despite some loose ends and unknowns, the planning process must continue.

At the Jan. 29 meeting, the board approved an amount of $55,000 to go toward next steps. Of that amount, up to $25,000 is to be spent on Perkins+Will — a representative from the firm will continue to work with Shea Properties on the design of the building until a final architecture firm is selected — $15,000 will go toward a parking study, $10,000 will go toward contingencies and $5,000 will go toward capital engineering, according to metro district staff.

About two dozen seniors attended the Jan. 29 meeting to voice concerns over the site. They worry about inadequate parking in the busy area, where several community events take place, and overcrowding of the senior center with the tenants of the affordable housing. Some neighbors of the proposed site also spoke out, concerned that a five-story building would disrupt thier views.

“We are asking you to do it right – to think about everything,” Gary Herbella, a senior, said. “We want people to think it was worth the money.”

Board members recognized the pushback from seniors in the community.

“There is one question here: Will this site work?” board member Mark Dickerson said. “Let’s find out some answers here and find out if this is going to work.”

The discussion will continue at a Feb. 20 study session, when the board will detail plans for a traffic study, a cost-sharing agreement with Shea Properties and a timeline for the project.

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