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Continued: Hot property: Sunlight Senior Living

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  • Last update: May 10, 2009 - 9:49 PM


400 Western Av. N., St. Paul

Type: Senior housing

Size: 19,300 square feet

Units: 36

Developer: JB Realty Co.

Details: A vacant, one-story commercial building in St. Paul's Summit-University neighborhood that began life decades ago as an Applebaum's grocery store will get a unique makeover into a 36-unit senior assisted-living facility, its owners say.

Kou Vang of Maplewood-based JB Realty is coordinating the rehabilitation of the eyesore into a Sunlight Senior Living facility, the fifth and by far the biggest senior housing facility owned by the St. Paul provider. Vang said reconstruction of the old store, most recently an Asian foods supermarket, is noteworthy because of the creative way its square, boxy shape will be adapted into living space.

"We are going to remove a 4,000-square-foot chunk of the square, in effect turning it into a U-shaped building that will allow for much more natural light into the interior and creating a courtyard with a canopy over it," he said. "That allows for new windows and more exterior wall space."

Vang said the design will incorporate 25 assisted-living apartment and 10 memory-care units reserved for residents with dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The building was repossessed by Western Bank from its previous owner and, he says, will complement another redevelopment project right next door -- a new home for the Hmong American Federal Credit Union on the former site of a shuttered gas station.

Sunlight Senior Living owns four small senior housing facilities in the east metro, all of which are in former single-family homes and specialize in culturally specific Hmong elder care. The Western Avenue facility will be its biggest effort so far, company owner Lee Vang said.

"It will be our first apartment-style housing facility, and it will be culturally mainstream," she said. "It will offer 24-hour monitoring, meals, kitchenettes and private bathrooms."

Lee Vang said the new Sunlight facility will cost $3.2 million to construct and was aided by a $250,000 Minnesota Department of Human Services Community Service/Community Services Development grant.


Don Jacobson, a freelance writer based in St. Paul, can be reached at

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