Building on senior success in the Corridor

A rendering depicts the Terrace Glen Village senior living community planned by Scenic Development for a site off Alburnett Road. The company’s communities stand out by offering a range of care options under the same roof in a rental payment format, according to Managing Partner Gib Wood. RENDERING/RON REID ASSOCIATES.

By Dave DeWitte

Marion is setting the stage for another major senior living development, this time one that will bring a $22 million investment and 124 living units to a currently unincorporated area along Alburnett Road.

Scenic Development of Overland Park, Kansas, has finalized plans for Terrace Glen Village, a continuing care retirement community on Alburnett Road south of Tower Terrace Road. The project will stand apart from the many others under development in the metro area, according to Gib Wood, managing partner of Scenic Development.

The facility will have 50 independent living units, 34 assisted living apartments and a 40-bed skilled nursing facility with a rehab wing. All will be offered under a rental model, contrasting with the more common senior living model  that requires the resident to pay a considerable buy-in fee that can run as high as $200,000-$300,000.

Under the rental model, Mr. Wood said, residents aren’t stuck in a community if it no longer pleases them or meets their needs.

“My partner Wayne [Anderson, vice president] says that our residents vote on our service every month when they write out their rent checks,” Mr. Wood said.

Scenic Development looks for underserved suburban markets in which to build its communities. The family-owned business started out with a community in Iowa Falls in 1975, and has developed three other Iowa projects in Grimes, Altoona and Ames. It also has developed a project in the Kansas City metro area.

Mr. Wood said Cedar Rapids stood out as an underserved community, and the area around the developing Tower Terrace Road corridor near Marion made it an appealing location.

The fact that it isn’t in the city limits may not be much of a hurdle. Marion Planning and Development Director Tom Treharne said the city fully supports bringing the 14-acre site into Marion. It is part of a 73-acre annexation request that went to the City Development Board of the Iowa Economic Development Authority on Aug. 10. The annexation request also includes an existing large-lot county subdivision, Ivy Aire Acres, and 15-20 acres in the Tower Terrace Corridor that could be zoned for commercial uses.

Some residents of Ivy Aire Acres opposed the annexation request at the City Development Board meeting.

Most of the remaining land would probably be developed for single-family and multifamily residential uses, Mr. Treharne said.

“There’s definitely a need for more senior housing in Marion,” said Assistant Planning and Development Director Dave Hockett. He cited a state study that identified a shortage of skilled nursing beds in Linn County, and said it has helped spur significant development in the market.

Another senior living project, The Views, is expected to bring 100 living units to the opposite end of Marion near its Menards home improvement store. Two senior apartment communities, the 60-unit Blairs Ferry Senior at 830 Blairs Ferry Road, and the 70-unit Arbor at Lindale Trail at 1362 Blairs Ferry Road, are in the final stages of development.

Mr. Wood said Scenic Development finds that its strategy of focusing on thriving suburban communities works in part because many established working couples want to have their parents close by, where they can receive the level of care they need and still be active within their families. The average age of the company’s residents is around 85 years old.

Scenic Development projects offer the different levels of support and care most seniors need as they age, but are also designed to remove barriers between residents in the different levels, such as different buildings.

“They also have a central coffeeshop, shared by all three levels of care,” Mr. Wood said.

Work on the senior living community could begin this fall after the city has completed the annexation, and rezoned the property from its current agricultural designation to a planned unit development.

Mr. Wood said Scenic Development usually brings in local subcontractors and investors into its projects. As for investment, he said the Marion project is already fully subscribed.

Mr. Treharne said Scenic Development has been a good partner for the city to work with so far, holding a community meeting with the families in the area, and agreeing to implement dark-sky lighting and plant evergreens to screen the project from neighbors.