Construction underway on senior housing project in Anoka

by Mandy Moran Froemming
Union Editor

The community celebrated the official start to construction of The Homestead at Anoka, a $35 million senior housing campus being built by the Volunteers of America.

A groundbreaking celebration took place Monday for the Homestead of Anoka, a $35 million senior housing campus currently under construction by the Volunteers of America. While they had to bring the dirt and the shovels indoors for the event, marking the moment were (from left) Rob Borchard (president of CBS Construction services), VOA President Mike King, VOA Senior Vice President of Operations Wayne Olson and Skip Sorenson (architect with Pope Architects).

A special ground breaking event took place at Green Haven Golf Course on Monday, where local government officials and VOA staff marked the occasion, which has been more than a decade in the making.

The current generation of seniors, those who have come up through difficult times including the Great Depression, are typically complacent about the housing and services they require later in life, said Dean McDevitt, executive director of the VOA’s Anoka Care Center.

But that is all going to change.

“The baby boomers’ expectations are going to be vastly different,” said McDevitt, who pointed out every single day 10,000 Americans are turning 65. “It will be a challenge to meet the future needs of those we will serve.”

The Homestead at Anoka, which will replace the current Anoka Care Center, is part of a redefined vision of senior services that will include amenities such as private rooms and private bathrooms and showers.

Construction is now under way at the Fourth Avenue site, located just north of Anoka’s Northstar Commuter Rail Station.

The Homestead at Anoka is expected to open in the spring of 2013. The campus will feature 127 skilled nursing beds including transitional care, secured memory care and a rehab clinic. Also part of this first phase will be 27 independent living units with heated underground parking and 32 assisted living units. The campus’ town square will feature a club room, general store, hairstyling salon, private dining room and community room.

“We care about people in a very special way,” said VOA President Mike King. “What is different about us is we’re not here to make money. We’re here to make families and make families sleep well at night.”

Over the last 11 years the VOA has worked closely with the city of Anoka, and in particular Community Development Director Bob Kirchner, to find a site that would work for the senior housing campus. Dozens of options have been evaluated over the years.

VOA Vice President Wayne Olson said when the organization purchased the Anoka Care Center from Good Samaritan House back in 2000, it was on the brink of closure.

“But the community wanted that facility saved and they were very vocal about it,” said Olson.

Prior to the sale, Good Samaritan House had retained the right to rebuild from the state, but it had to be within four miles of the existing facility.

He credits Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and former State Sen. Leo Foley (DFL-Coon Rapids) for their work in finding a solution for the struggling nursing home.

Abeler said he never envisioned the end result would be a project of this magnitude.

During Monday’s celebration, Olson told of the many hurdles the VOA had to clear in order to get this project off the ground. They ranged from finding the right location to convincing the VOA’s board to invest in a $35 million campus in difficult economic times and uncertain reinvestment times and then securing financing for the project, said Olson.

“We do this for the residents,” said Olson. “We don’t do it for the staff or the organization. We do it for the residents that will be living there one year from now and for the next 80 or 90 years.

“Technically the people who will be served at this campus haven’t even been born yet.”

The way The Homestead at Anoka is designed, residents will be able to transition through a variety of types of housing.

“The concept of this building is to create households,” said Skip Sorenson of Pope Architects, the firm which designed The Homestead at Anoka.

“As the residents age in place and need more services they can be transferred to different areas of care.”

Along with the VOA, local government officials have long seen the need of an upgraded facility in the city of Anoka.

“What we do know is that people who need skilled nursing services want to remain in their own community,” said Anoka Mayor Phil Rice.

He said the city is happy, pleased and proud to have been able to assist the VOA in finding a location where the organization can offer the continuum of care The Homestead at Anoka will provide.

This project is also an example of how the city and Anoka County can successfully work together to bring new development to the community, said Rice.

In order for the project to work on the site off Fourth Avenue, the city had to complete a land swap with Anoka County to acquire enough property create a buildable site to sell VOA.

The phase-one 195,000 square-foot building is on seven acres of property bought from the city of Anoka. The VOA also has an option to purchase an adjoining parcel for expansion.

Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look commended the VOA for its decision to build The Homestead at Anoka.

“The VOA serves 50 communities throughout the U.S. and we’re proud you have chosen to stay here in Anoka and expand,” said Look.

Anoka County’s low tax rates help to attract and retain businesses in the area, he said.

“Businesses bring jobs and jobs bring community stability,” said Look.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]

  • Pat Walker

    Too bad that none of the tax dollars from the development will benifit local taxpayers who have been robbed of the tax relief. The property tax dollars will instead be diverted into a separate acocount the council will use to develop the rest of the one hundred acre train station, which will generate more tax revenue which will also be diverted for twenty five years. Yes the future of Anoka is strong, but now? Well, not so much. The taxpayers of Anoka, Anoka County and the State of Minnesota should learn more about Tax Increment Financing. It’s your money.

  • Steve McQueen

    Why would they put a retirement home next to the train station? I think it would have been smart to build condos for the working folks who may take the train to downtown.