After two years of delays and developers backing out for a senior assisted-living project in Rosemount, the city has found a local developer that it is confident will get the job done.

"We have a strong interest in getting in the ground while the market is still hot for that kind of project," said Kim Lindquist, Rosemount's community development director. "And we just want to make sure that we have a service in Rosemount for our residents and our residents' relatives."

The city released concept plans this month for a 90-unit assisted-living and memory care building and an attached 5,000-square-foot public activity center for seniors and other groups. It would sit on city-owned land in downtown Rosemount, just north of the Steeple Center — walking distance from that building and the Robert Trail Library. The housing will include a few units for independent living.

The developer, Stonebridge Communities of Apple Valley, is the third company aiming to carry out the project. The city has worked with Stonebridge before to build Waterford Commons apartments, and the developer has worked on senior housing facilities in Inver Grove Heights, West St. Paul, Lilydale, Coon Rapids, Shoreview and Oak Park Heights.

"We have a relationship already," Lindquist said. "From that perspective, we're quite comfortable moving forward."

The building will be connected to a public center that is primarily meant to be used as a senior center, with additional meeting rooms for local groups like the Rosemount Area Arts Council (RAAC). It will ease the demand for the limited space of the Steeple Center that is regularly rented out for special events like weddings and used for church on Sundays.

The long-term goal of the city-owned Steeple Center is to make it an arts and cultural center, and the new activity center will provide more space for that. "We're always trying to respond to current uses and needs that we have," said Rosemount Senior Planner Eric Zweber.

The center will include a catering kitchen and meeting rooms. "Because we've got a variation in size of those public spaces, we can accommodate small groups or large groups," Lindquist said. Art exhibits could line the hallways, she added.

The city plans to finish only the first floor of the new two-story building for now. "When we finish the second floor, we would add uses to fill gaps in our current facilities," Zweber said.

The plan is to begin building this year and have the project completed next year.

'It's unique in a sense'

Lindquist says the release of the concept plans is a big step.

An open house to present the plans last week drew 30 to 40 residents, who expressed concerns about how it would affect the view from their homes. Architects are looking at ways to soften the view from the housing with landscaping, and "varying the three-story facade a little bit better," Lindquist said. "So there are certainly things that need to be done yet, but I think we're moving in the right direction," she said.

Mayor Bill Droste said "it's unique in a sense" to have a public center attached to senior housing. But it offers convenience because of its location.

"It's wonderful, and I think it's going to be great for the seniors," Droste said. "There's all kinds of advantages."

And with nearby schools, he added, seniors would be able to volunteer helping students.

"There's a possibility we could be tying seniors with younger kids, maybe for reading programs," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to work on that also."

Meeting the market

In an April 2011 city study testing Rosemount's market for senior housing, 80 units were identified as what the market supports. The previous developer, Doran Cos., had wanted to build 90 units, but without a supporting market, it withdrew its commitment.

Financial limitations also were a factor in previous developers backing out, as well as coming to an agreement with the city about the kind of use the developer wanted vs. what the city wanted, Lindquist said. The company had proposed an expensive activity center with a pool, fitness center, and cafe — possibly charging the public a membership fee.

As more senior assisted-living developments sprout across the south metro, the demand declines because there's not yet a significant population of those age 75 and older for that space. A similar development in Savage recently fell through. Although the population is aging, baby boomers won't reach that age for another 10 to 15 years.

The south metro also has relatively fewer older seniors than inner-ring suburbs. Census figures show that in 2010, less than 5 percent of the population in Rosemount, Burnsville, Lakeville and Savage was 75 and older. In Edina, the number is 12 percent.