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March 10, 2013

Demand fueling senior housing projects

Retiring baby boomers expected to further increase need, market study says.

LOGANSPORT — The Logansport planning department and a developer are saying current and predicted increases in demand are fueling the city’s senior housing development efforts.

Logansport City Council recently approved an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow for senior housing on the ground floor of buildings downtown. Shortly after that vote, Indianapolis-based Crestline Communities received a pledge of more than $6 million in tax credits from the state to develop the former McKinley school at 1501 Meadlawn Ave. into a 38-unit senior housing facility.

Arin Shaver, Logansport-Cass County planning director, said the need for senior housing was outlined in a comprehensive plan authored by the planning department in 2009.

“The comprehensive plan said senior housing needs to be looked at because of the demand of baby boomers reaching retirement age,” Shaver said.

Mike Meagher, executive director of Area Five Agency on Aging & Community Services in Logansport, said he personally didn’t feel there was a need in the city for more senior housing, but that independent market studies contracted by companies seeking to develop the establishments may state otherwise.

“Having developed senior housing before, the companies that are doing this have to do a very extensive market study,” Meagher said. “They can’t just submit a housing proposal. If it’s funded by tax credits, there has to be a very extensive look at how much housing is already in the community and how many seniors there are. They won’t get funded with those tax credits unless the community shows a need for the units.

“If the demand isn’t there, they won’t get an award,” Meagher continued. “There must be more demand than what I can see right now.”

Meagher said as an abundant generation reaches retirement age, things may change.

“Obviously with baby boomers reaching retirement, demand is going to go up,” Meagher said. “I assume those market studies believe there’s enough growth because of the expansion of retirement-aged people. I’m not convinced that right now the market’s that great.”

James Wilson, president of Crestline Communities, said Crestline commissioned a market study in October for the McKinley project.

“What they do is they take our project, our rent, our amenities and go out and look at every other project in the market,” Wilson said of the extensive and expensive 162-page report. “They look at all the demographics in the market, how many 55-year-old-and-older households, how many are in income places you’re going to serve, to what extent are they renters... they take all these demographic numbers to come up with the market size, then they determine who is all looking for apartments and how many of those people this project will ultimately serve.”

Wilson said the report indicated the Crestline project would fill about 8.6 percent of overall senior housing demand.

“That is a very strong indicator of market demand,” Wilson said.

Wilson affirmed Meagher’s notion that these studies are required in order to receive tax credits to fund these kinds of projects.

“Just because we believe there’s a market, that’s not enough for the state of Indiana,” Wilson said. “We have to demographically prove it.”

Along with the recent amendment regarding senior housing downtown, Shaver said the planning department currently allows for it in several areas throughout the city, including high-density residential and neighborhood business districts.

“Senior housing usually likes to be located near grocery stores, which neighborhood business districts allow for, and downtown, because there are uses there they would possibly want by them,” Shaver said.

Shaver said the type of senior housing permitted downtown and at McKinley does not include assisted-living establishments.

The next step, Meagher said, will be to see how quickly new senior housing facilities fill units.

“The question on need is how quickly will those units be absorbed into the community,” Meagher said. “Typically if you build a facility like that, you want it absorbed within six months, but they may have a 12-month or 18-month absorption.”

Wilson said the senior housing to be developed at McKinley is expected to lease up within five to six months upon completion.

Shaver said the planning department has yet to hear from any developers for downtown.

“As of right now we haven’t had anybody coming and talking to us,” Shaver said. “They may be looking but they haven’t spoken with us. We don’t get informed until they actually pick a location.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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