Metro district decides against site for senior center

Inadequate parking at Town Center location led to the decision

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Plans for a senior center at a site near Town Center have come to a halt amid parking concerns.

The Highlands Ranch Metro District, in partnership with Shea Properties, intended to build the community's first senior center, with attached apartments that Shea calls affordable senior housing, on a plot of land next door to James H. LaRue library, at the corner of Ridgeline Boulevard and Dorchester Street. An opening date was projected for mid-to-late 2021.

Shea Properties' affordable housing complex is moving forward, with construction expected to begin in 2020.

At a metro district study session on Feb. 20, board members and John Kilrow, senior vice president of Colorado development for Shea Properties, agreed that inadequate parking prohibited the senior center from moving forward. The 2-acre plot of land can accommodate 130 parking spots for tenants of the affordable housing. The senior center would raise that number to 200 to 250.

“I don't think that's attainable on this site,” Kilrow said in a presentation to board members, metro district staff and about 20 community members. “It's a 2-acre site, it's tight. The numbers are the numbers.”

Jim Worley, chair of the metro district board of directors, agreed.

“I'm not convinced this is our site,” he said. “I think there are too many hurdles on it.”

The 22,000-square-foot senior center — owned by the metro district — would have housed a lounge, café, kitchen, event space, activity rooms and exercise room. Using bonds, Shea would cover the cost of the land.

Over the past two months, a group of seniors from the Highlands Ranch Senior Club — comprising about 300 members — voiced concerns over the Town Center site. For several years they've advocated for a senior center, but they worried about the lack of space for parking and expansion at the sought-after location, as well as overcrowding from tenants of the affordable housing.

“I think the seniors will be glad, as I am, that the board decided not to go there,” John Holmes, a Highlands Ranch resident, said. “The seniors will be disappointed, as I am, that it will take the senior center much longer to become a reality. However, I think it is better to do it right rather than rush it.”

The metro district board of directors advised metro district staff to explore other possible locations in the community. An already started traffic study on parking needed for a 22,000-square-foot senior center will continue.

As will Shea Properties' plans.

Its affordable housing complex calls for a four-story building with 130 units — reduced from five floors with 150 units after pushback from community members in surrounding neighborhoods.

The complex will not be Section 8 or subsidized housing, Shea Properties Vice President Benjamin Wullschlager said in a presentation at the Feb. 20 study session.

Shea Properties will use low-income housing tax credits, meaning it will work with Douglas County to secure housing bonds that act as a loan, allocated by the federal government.

The model provides affordable housing for residents 55 and older who earn 60 percent of Douglas County's median income. The requirement for a single-person household income would be $35,000 to $40,000, and no more than $45,000 for a two-person household, according to Wullschlager.

In 2018, monthly rent and utilities for senior affordable housing in Douglas County — set by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development — came out to $945 for a studio, $1,012 for a one-bedroom and $1,215 for a two-bedroom.

A similar project is Apex Meridian, developed by Shea Properties in 2014, which brought 156 affordable apartment units to the northern border of Douglas County near I-25 and C-470. The complex is equipped with a pool, fitness center and community room.

All units are full and there is an ongoing wait list of about 1,000 people, according to Wullschlager.

Shea Properties is still in the preliminary planning stages of the Highlands Ranch project. The county has yet to receive an application from Shea Properties. 

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