Originally published on Lillienews.com, click here for the original article.
Arden Hills should soon be getting a new senior housing complex along Old Highway 10.
The Arden Hills City Council signed off on a site plan, conditional use permit and rezoning for the project at its July 22 meeting, but will need to submit a comprehensive plan amendment to the Metropolitan Council before the developer can begin work.
The three-story, 120-unit complex would include independent and assisted living, as well as a memory care wing. As part of the project, Summit Development has also proposed putting in park amenities on adjacent city-owned land that would be available to residents as well as the general public.
The project is slated to go in on five acres of vacant land along Parkshore Drive, a dead-end road just north of the Interstate 694 overpass at Old Highway 10. The project, which has yet to be named, would include a mix of independent and assisted living units, as well as a designated memory care wing. (graphics courtesy of Summit Development/Kaas Wilson Architects)
Summit has entered into a purchase agreement for the project site with its current owner, Bramantes Arden Hills Land, LLC. According to Jamison Kohout, managing partner at Summit, the five acres of vacant land were initially listed for $1 million.
The site is located at the end of Parkshore Drive, a small offshoot of Old Highway 10, just north of the Interstate 694 overpass.
Walker Methodist, a non-profit senior living organization that currently manages 11 other facilities around the metro, would oversee the residence. In an interview, Kohout said his company plans on maintaining ownership of the property.
City council members expressed few reservations about the proposal at the meeting and have expressed the need for more senior housing options at past council work sessions.
Only one resident, George Winiecki, spoke at the public hearing held directly before the vote. He’s the only person who currently lives along the south side of Parkshore Drive, directly east of where the project is slated to go in.
“The property is going to develop one way or another and I think this would be a really good use,” Winiecki told council members.
City Planner Mike Mrosla said feedback from neighbors has been generally positive because of the lower traffic and noise impacts associated with senior living.
After receiving city approval, the developer now needs to wait for the Met Council to approve an amendment to the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan that would guide the site for high-density use.
This can only happen once the comprehensive plan has been approved, which Mrosla said would likely be this fall, if not the following spring.
Council concerns, approval
The council’s primary concern was over management of a drainage pond that would be used by the complex, located on the adjacent city land. Summit is taking responsibility for maintaining the pond.
Council member Dave McClung also wondered if the new facility would put a strain on emergency vehicles. Anneliese Peterson, Walker Methodist’s vice president of operations, estimated at the meeting that roughly 75% of residents typically register for the nonprofit’s in-home health monitoring program.
She said this allows them to alert staff when they have a health concern and employees can then assist, acting as first responders, calling 911 only if necessary.
In the end, council members unanimously approved the proposal, rezoning the site from a single-family residential district to an R-4 multi-dwelling district.
The council also approved a conditional use permit allowing the site to be used for assisted living purposes, and approved the applicant’s request for certain variances from city code, including in terms of height and density.
The building would be five feet taller than traditionally allowed in an R-4 district. It would also have a density of roughly 20 units per acre, as opposed to the 12 currently allowed by the city. The city has approved requests for similar densities in the past.
The initial proposal included 102 parking spaces, with roughly half of them in an underground lot. City council members ultimately added a condition onto their approval of the project, asking to further reduce the parking to roughly 90 spaces, given that 75% of apartments are planned to be assisted living and memory care units.
In discussing parking at the meeting, Mrosla said there would likely never be more than 20 staff members present at one time.
Improvements to public land
The facility, which doesn’t yet have a name, would sit directly east of city-owned land near Round Lake. The current proposal involves the city giving up roughly 0.4 acres of this property to the developer, so that the building can be set farther back from Winiecki’s home.
The city would receive a small piece of land back in return, and Summit has also proposed adding a trail and other recreational amenities to the remaining city land, which has been guided for use as a park but has no existing facilities. Proposed improvements include a paved loop trail through the space, with six workout stations along the path.
Each station would have senior-oriented fitness equipment that would serve residents, while also being open to the general public.
Details on the facility
Summit anticipates having 30 independent living units, 61 assisted living units, five enhanced assisted living units and a 24-unit memory care wing.
Kohout estimated that rent for a one-bedroom independent living apartment would be roughly $1,900. An assisted-living studio would be approximately $2,300, because of the extra level of care that goes with it.
Arden Hills has come under fire recently from a couple local affordable housing organizations for a lack of residential affordability in plans for the stalled Rice Creek Commons development.
Asked if the affordability of these units was a consideration for the city, Mayor David Grant said in an interview that senior living facilities are in a category by themselves because of the medical expenses that get factored into rent.
“They come with services. You can get memory care units, which are generally a smaller room, and you do pay for the room but you pay for all the care that goes with it,” he said. “What you’re paying is typically more than anything that would be in the affordable range. That’s not to say that these are luxury.”
At the meeting, Peterson said the complex would have a variety of floor plans and apartment sizes to choose from.
Beyond the needed Met Council comp plan approval, which could push the beginning of construction into next spring, Summit will also have to finalize its purchase of the land before the project gets underway.