Condos sit atop shops, restaurants surround a grassy plaza and families stroll beneath elegantly lit porticos.

This is not your average senior housing.

Presbyterian Homes and Services' plans for 14 acres in Wayzata are much like its plans for a 21-acre site in Eden Prairie: a senior housing complex that offers much more than senior housing.

While such developments often include small amounts of retail -- a pharmacy, for example -- Presbyterian Homes' plans for Wayzata include 130,000 feet of retail space. They also call for office space, housing that's not just for seniors and possibly a hotel.

Such amenities don't muddy the nonprofit's mission of serving older adults, said CEO Dan Lindh. Instead, they enhance it.

"Older adults are part of the broader society," he said. "So our communities should be as well."

There are also practical, economic reasons. More cities expect developments to integrate multiple uses, such as housing, office and retail. If they do, they're more likely to get city tax breaks. And in a competitive market, convenience counts.

"A push to be near retail -- that's not new. It's always been a criteria locating independent senior housing," said Mary Bujold, president of Maxfield Research of Minneapolis.

The firm publishes a senior housing update annually.

"But because of scarcity of land or land costs, senior housing developers have been forced into creating their own retail centers," Bujold said.

Operate in Iowa, Wisconsin, too

Presbyterian Homes and Services is a large, longstanding nonprofit based in Roseville. It operates 32 senior housing facilities in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. In 2006, the organization was 20th in a ranking of Minnesota's largest non-profits, with revenues of about $166.6 million, up 13 percent from the previous year.

About 8 percent of that revenue comes from operations unrelated to senior housing, according to its tax filings. Retail is part of that category, but so is office space, daycare services and a hotel the nonprofit came to own through an unexpected turn of events.

In reality, proceeds from renting retail space account for less than 1 percent of the nonprofit's income, said John Mehrkens, vice president of development.

Managing retail "is certainly not something we look to do," Mehrkens said. "When we go into a project, our singular goal is the senior housing. When there are opportunities to have a greater impact, we'll do that."

Its plans for a complex in Burnsville have no retail, for example, because it's adjacent to a variety of existing businesses.

And if Presbyterian Homes had looked at the Wayzata site without further study, it probably would have planned "all senior housing, maybe a small amount of retail, and called it a day," Mehrkens told a crowd of 130 residents who attended a recent City Council meeting.

Instead, it led a public planning process and through it learned that many residents thought the site -- now home to the strip-mall-style Wayzata Bay Center -- needed retail as much or more than it needed senior housing.

A market analysis paid for by the city and the Wayzata Bay Redevelopment Company, a subsidiary Presbyterian Homes formed to manage the project, found that the city's retail had waned, sales had stalled and competition was increasing.

McComb Group, the Minneapolis retail consulting firm that did the analysis, recommended that Presbyterian Homes pack the 14-acre site with as much retail as possible.

The result: A plan Wayzata Mayor Andrew Humphrey refers to as "the most exciting project I've seen."

"If it had been a whole lot of senior housing, I would have been far less enamored by it," he said. "A lot of what's attractive to me is the balance."

'A wonderful project'

Presbyterian Homes' Avalon Square development in Waukesha, Wis., got full support from the city in large part because it included 9,000 square feet of retail beneath its senior housing.

"It's just a wonderful project," said Steven Crandell, interim city administrator. There, the city's ordinances do not allow any development within its business district to have more than 50 percent of its first floor as residential.

How the nonprofit handles the retail portions of its housing communities depends on the site.

It will likely enlist partners to manage retail at the Eden Prairie and Wayzata sites, but because those partners have not been identified, Mehrkens declined to comment on the structure of such relationships.

Presbyterian Homes handles the small amount of retail at SummerHouse of Bloomington itself, and takes the same approach with SummerWood of Chanhassen. The nonprofit has set up more than 50 sub-corporations to manage such operations, which are not tax-exempt.

Money made from retail is held on site, Mehrkens said, and supplements dollars earned through other means, such as donations, to help pay for affordable housing and to keep rental rates lower for housing in general.

They want to stay engaged

Building senior housing is "a different ballgame than it was even five or so years ago," said Lindh, who has spent his 31-year career at Presbyterian Homes and has served as its CEO since 1996.

The average age of those entering the nonprofit's housing is about 80, he said. And that generation expects to stay engaged in their communities and needs the transportation and retail to do so.

"It used to be more entertainment-oriented," Lindh said, describing amenities at senior housing complexes. "We'd bring a lot of groups in. Now we're figuring out ways to get residents out."

Vera, 85, and Tom Story, 87, decided to sell their townhouse in Chanhassen in part because its 16 steps were "just too much," Vera Story said.

They chose Presbyterian Homes' independent living at SummerWood of Chanhassen because it was close -- to church and to Culver's. And stores that are part of the development, such as a beauty shop, are just steps away.

"When we decide not to drive, we can still get around so easily," she said.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168