Pella developer plans Coralville’s first senior living co-op

By Dave DeWitte

As Ewing Land Development prepares to develop the first independent living co-op in Coralville, retirees will have both new financial and living options to consider.

Pella-based Ewing Land is planning a 60-unit, three-story independent senior living facility named Vintage Cooperative of Coralville at the northwest corner of Kennedy Parkway and Camp Cardinal Boulevard. The project moved a step toward launch Tuesday when the Coralville City Council approved a zoning change to allow the facility.

Ewing Land got its start more than 10 years ago developing market-rate housing for seniors and continuing care retirement communities, but in the last several years has shifted toward the co-op ownership model of independent living communities, according to Josh Cowman, vice president of development for Ewing Land.

Continuing care retirement communities typically require a sizeable buy-in from residents, who then pay a monthly fee. But they don’t typically get the benefits of ownership like a home mortgage interest deduction or appreciation in value, as co-op ownership can offer.

Vintage Cooperative’s co-op ownership “is unique in this area,” said Mr. Cowman.

The nearest senior living co-op under development is a 65-unit community under construction in Cedar Rapids by Village Cooperative of Eagan, Minn. The community is located near the corner of Boyson Road and Creekside Drive.

Mr. Cowman said cooperative ownership gives each resident an ownership share in the entire project, and the ability to take a home mortgage exemption on the interest expense of the project financing – typically about half of the monthly ownership fee.

The financing of such projects is economical because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) insures the mortgages, helping to keep interest rates low. Under Section 213 of the National Housing Act, HUD insures mortgages made by private lending institutions on cooperative housing projects of five or more dwelling units to be occupied by members of nonprofit cooperative ownership housing corporations.

The fixed-rate, HUD-backed financing can extend for 40 years, and investors can tell from an appreciation schedule what their investment in the co-op will approximately be worth each year over the 40-year period, Mr. Cowman said.

Co-op members also benefit from HUD supervision of project construction and financing of the project, and by having a say in the in the management of the facility, Mr. Cowman said. Early co-op members can customize their units by specifying features such as wall placements in certain rooms, and lighting and plumbing packages.

The share price for members of the co-op will vary from about $70,000 to about $140,000. The $140,000 units will have about 1,800 square feet of space. All of the units will have underground parking, and the complex will have about a dozen extra spaces that can be purchased by owners with more than one car.

Serving seniors

Addressing the needs and service requirements for seniors was one of the Coralville City Council’s top goals during a goal-setting session in January 2014, according to Mayor John Lundell.

“We’re pleased to have this new (Ewing Land) group come in,” Mr. Lundell said. “Providing diversity in home ownership and financing options is a very important thing for the seniors, so that they can choose the option that best fits their needs.”

Ewing Land has developed independent senior living co-ops in Pella, Newton, Waukee, Ankeny and Indianola in recent years and is currently developing projects in Kansas.

Mr. Cowman said Ewing Land looked at Coralville as a site for a community about five years ago before it transitioned to the co-op ownership style, and liked the Camp Cardinal Boulevard area, with its mature trees and scenery.

Mr. Cowman said one of the major differences in developing senior housing as a co-op is that he and his company’s marketing team get to know many of the future residents on a first-name basis and understand their housing needs before the first shovel of earth is turned.

Amenities to be offered for Vintage Cooperative members will include a woodworking shop, fitness center and a carwash in the underground parking area.

Assuming everything goes well, Mr. Cowman said construction of the 60-unit building will begin next spring and be completed in about one year.

Vintage Cooperative is expected to be the first project in new three-lot Southgate Development subdivision. Ewing Development has purchased two of the lots, and has seven additional acres of land available for additional senior living facilities as the market develops, Mr. Cowman said.