This “continuum of care” complex is run by Volunteers of America, which plans to open another wing this month. The Northstar rail station is a block away.

Jim Adams, Star Tribune

Senior housing boom sweeps metro area

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • February 19, 2013 - 2:38 PM

Senior housing developments are sprouting up across the Twin Cities, part of a trend to provide elderly people with more housing choices and better medical, social and other service options.

The building boom stems partly from a backlog of projects that stalled for several years during the recession that began in 2008, said Adam Suomala, of Aging Services of Minnesota, an association of nonprofit senior-housing providers.

Norma Nelson has moved into one of the newest assisted-living buildings, Homestead at Anoka. The $34 million "continuum-of-care" complex opened in early December, a block north of the city's Northstar commuter train station.

Nelson, 88, had moved from Duluth to live with a daughter in Blaine. She doesn't need much, just meals and the weekly cleaning of her apartment.

"I want to be independent as long as possible," Nelson said recently over a danish and coffee in the dining room. "I don't want to be a pest to my children." She said she likes the food, exercise classes and playing 500 Rummy with seniors and volunteers from local churches.

Nelson can add medical or other services as needed. Memory care and skilled nursing care will be available for Homestead residents in an adjoining building that Volunteers of America plans to open by the end of February. The city lined up the 7.5 acre site for the 179-unit complex, which sits just east of the wooded asphalt trail along the Rum River.

Homestead is among about two dozen assisted-living and other senior-housing options that have opened in the past year or are under construction in Shoreview, Fridley, St. Louis Park, Lakeville, Woodbury and other metro suburbs.

Statewide, the number of housing projects offering senior services increased by nearly 200 since March 2007, to about 1,150 by last month, said Darcy Miner, director of compliance monitoring for the state Department of Health.

Ebenezer Management Services opened five senior centers last year with a total of about 450 apartments, and it has two more centers underway in Burnsville and Deephaven, said Susan Farr, vice president of business development. She noted that four of the seven centers offer opportunities for seniors to connect with children, including a senior center connected by skyway to Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville. The $12.5 million, 93-unit project opened in October.

Presbyterian Homes opened three facilities in Bloomington, Burnsville and Arden Hills last year and is building two more in Wayzata and Brooklyn Center, said John Mehrkens, vice president of project development. He said the Wayzata project, a block from Lake Minnetonka, has pre-leased all 148 independent living units that will sit above the ground level retail shops anchored by a Lund's grocery.

The Twin Cities is a "very sophisticated senior housing market," said Mary Bujold, president of Maxfield Research of Minneapolis. The firm does senior housing market studies for cities and developers. She said senior options range from "affordable, active-adult housing with no services to enhanced assisted-living suites to full-scale memory care."

Bujold said her firm estimated that in 2010 the seven-county area had 192,500 households of people 65 years and older. Maxfield said 18 percent of those households were in senior housing.

Two new senior projects on Old Central Avenue in Fridley offer aging residents an opportunity to stay in the city where they have worked and raised families, said Community Development Director Scott Hickok. Moving into the $7 million, 70-unit, showy Landmark or the modest, 59-unit White Pines Assisted Living, also opens up single-family homes to young families who can use city parks and schools.

"Our seniors love their community, churches and shops, but they have not always had options for housing," Hickok said. "This provided options in the city. It keeps some of our good customers right here."

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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