Blaine approves fourth extension for senior housing

For senior citizens wondering what ever happened to the Crest View Senior Communities development, the plan is still in place to build a four-story building.

Although this was an artist rendering from a couple of years ago, Crest View Senior Community Chief Executive Officer Shirley Barnes said the design has really not changed besides there being about 20 fewer units than originally anticipated. The total development is now slated to be 155 units with a mix of independent, assisted and memory care offerings.

Although this was an artist rendering from a couple of years ago, Crest View Senior Community Chief Executive Officer Shirley Barnes said the design has really not changed besides there being about 20 fewer units than originally anticipated. The total development is now slated to be 155 units with a mix of independent, assisted and memory care offerings. File image

The non-profit company hopes the fourth conditional use permit extension approved by the Blaine City Council July 11 is the last one and that a groundbreaking ceremony will take place next spring, according to Crest View Senior Communities Chief Executive Officer Shirley Barnes.

“There is no one more excited for breaking ground than me,” Barnes said.

Crest View is proposing to construct a building on 7.5 acres with 69 units on the independent senior living side and connected to a separate three-story wing for 51 assisted living, 24 memory care and 11 enhanced assistance care suites, according to Barnes.

Barnes said construction is estimated to cost about $20 million. Including architecture, engineering, furnishing the building and various other costs, the total project will be around $27 million.

Ever since Crest View partnered with BrightKeys Building and Development Corp. in late 2007 to develop a 16-acre site on the southwest corner of Paul Parkway and Ulysses Street NE, the project has been unable to secure financing.

The plan from the time the council first approved the conditional use permit Jan. 3, 2008 was for the city to provide tax increment financing over a 25-year period, but on a pay as you go system rather than offering a lump sum that the developer later pays back. This way the city contribution would only come when property taxes start coming in, which would be used to pay off eligible development costs.

When Barnes came to the council in April 2009 to request the first extension, she said the tax exempt bond market was making it difficult for the project to move forward.

Although the final deals have not been signed, Barnes is confident that groundbreaking will happen next spring.

“The real estate market is finally coming back and that’s why we haven’t been in the ground before this,” Barnes told the council July 11.

The council has been unwavering in its continued support for the Crest View project.

“She has a sensible design so the service level is the best we can get,” Mayor Tom Ryan said.

Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said a community offers tax increment financing because “it provides for an affordability element.” Of the 155 units, 20 percent must be rented to seniors below the median income mark.

Barnes said besides providing more housing options for seniors, Crest View will be creating about 50 new jobs. The non-profit company currently employs almost 250 people that serve almost 400 seniors in five developments in Columbia Heights.

“Our mission is really to serve people in Anoka County,” Barnes said. “This project is only feasible with tax increment financing, so we are very grateful to the city of Blaine.”

Since Crest View received its last conditional use permit extension Nov. 17, 2011, Anoka County purchased property just north of the site that was once planned for the commercial and office space component of the original BrightKeys and Crest View concept plan presented during a September 2007 council workshop.

When Crest View’s new four-story building opens, it will be adjacent to a 400-space county park and ride lot that weekday commuters going to and from downtown Minneapolis will use. The bus service, which will only make one stop each in East Bethel, Ham Lake and Blaine before going downtown, could be available by early 2014.

Barnes said this gives seniors another opportunity to get downtown and their families a chance to stop by on their way to work.

“What an ideal location,” Barnes said. “We could not be more pleased with our neighbor being a park and ride lot.”

The bus service will not be available on the weekend and only during commute times, so these individuals would have to account for the limited service schedule.

Schafer told the council that the park and ride lot would generate less traffic than a commercial development although it would be concentrated in the morning and late afternoon to early evening when people are coming or going. The senior living facility will be mostly occupied by non-drivers except for the staff.

“Neither of these uses will provide significant traffic numbers,” Schafer said.

The proposal for the building itself has also been modified over the past six years as the market has changed. When the city was first approached in the fall of 2007, Crest View envisioned a four-story building just for 110 independent living units and a separate three-story building with 60 memory care and assisted living units.

By the time the council actually approved the conditional use permit in January 2008, however, the concept was already changed to the one building where all types of housing would be.

Those interested in signing up for the waiting list can call 763-782-1601. If you want more information about the project, call 763-782-1645.

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