Construction on a 78-unit senior living complex began in Deephaven last month after years of debate over how to use one of the last developable tracts of land left in the city on Lake Minnetonka.

The Deephaven Planning Commission reviewed the request by St. Therese Church of Deephaven to build a senior housing complex in April 2012, and the City Council discussed the proposal on May 7, 2012, with about 80 residents in attendance. After St. Therese obtained a zoning amendment for its land, the City Council approved its plan in October 2012.

"There were some people that didn't know whether this was the right project for the town, but in the end, it's the church's property and they have the right to develop it within reason," said Deephaven Mayor Paul Skrede, who added that he and many others in Deephaven strongly support the project, which will be called Deephaven Woods Senior Living.

The Roman Catholic church, which counts about 1,600 families in its membership, has wanted to build a senior housing complex on its land for more than 40 years, and this was its fourth formal attempt to do so, according to the Rev. Douglas Dandurand. Members have debated other types of land uses in the past, but senior housing has always been the church's first preference.

"When you're a pastor in a parish, you notice where people sit, and every once in a while I would notice one spot empty, then another spot empty, and then another spot empty, and I would ask, 'Where are these people going?'" said Dandurand. "There is no place for the citizens of Deephaven and its surrounding communities to go when they retire, and our seniors want to stay at home to be with their family and friends."

Dandurand credited the support of Mayor Skrede and the efforts of a loose task force made up of parishioners who work in real estate and construction in winning final approval for the project.

Three well-respected companies are collaborating on Deephaven Woods. Pope Architects designed the complex, Kraus-Anderson is building it, and Ebenezer will run the day-to-day operations once it is built.

"I felt very comfortable with Kraus-Anderson; we have worked with them in the past ... and I would have to say that knowing Ebenezer was going to manage it, and knowing the track record that they had made me feel very comfortable," said Skrede.

Deephaven Woods will occupy 14 out of the 26 acres of vacant land owned by St. Therese.

Originally, there were plans for a Phase II of the construction that would create additional townhouses on the property, but those plans were dropped in a compromise with the city.

Within the 78 units, a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments will be available, with support ranging from independent living to memory care.

Susan Farr, vice president of business development for Ebenezer, said that she expects most units to be sold by the time Deephaven Woods opens. About 20 seniors have put money down for apartments already, and Ebenezer has another 65 people on an interest list.

"Our goal is to be sold out by the time [Deephaven Woods] opens, and we remain confident that demand will be high for this project," said Farr.

A ceremonial ground-blessing ceremony was held on June 2, and despite heavy rain this spring, the project has remained on track to open spring/summer 2014.