Urbana the latest to try out cooperative living

Developers of the 31-unit Uptown Living cooperative in Urbana will collaborate with resident shareholders on the design and amenities of the luxury project aimed at baby boomers, though it could look something like this rendering. CREDIT UPSCALE LIVING


By Katharine Carlon

Hoping to ride the wave of retiring baby boomers, the developers behind The Views Senior Living in both Cedar Rapids and Marion are now planning a 31-unit cooperative living community in the tiny but fast-growing community of Urbana.

“Boomers, you’ve earned it. Baby, you deserve it!” are the words greeting visitors to the Uptown Living of Urbana website, which pitches freedom to travel, pursue hobbies and spend time with family away from the constraints of single-family homeownership. It also positions the cooperative concept as an opportunity to help shape a unique living experience with community peers.

“Baby boomers are younger than the generation in senior living already, and we wanted to market something that didn’t feel like other places, that didn’t say ‘hey, senior citizens,’” said Karen Everling, marketing coordinator for the project. “We’ve had a good response to that. It’s fun and people like to feel part of something, whether they’re Gen X or millennials or baby boomers.”

The $12.5 million development, set for construction just east of Urbana City Hall on 54th Street Lane, is being financed under the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Section 213, which is aimed at helping nonprofits and trusts develop housing projects to be operated as cooperatives by resident shareholders. At least one homeowner must be 62 years of age or older and projects must be 60 percent presold prior to its loan closing.

John Baumhoefner, president of Views Development and Upscale Living, said that means between 18-20 units will need to be reserved before proceeding with construction, which he estimated would take about 10 months. The sales process will kick off with an open house next month to begin discussing the development process and possible amenities with interested community members.

“This will be a community of shared interest,” Mr. Baumhoefner said. “It’s a chance to put together a facility that meets [residents’] needs.”

Ms. Everling said resident shareholders would be actively involved throughout its design, with opportunities to offer input on stylistic decisions and community features. Uptown Living, which is eying similar developments in Marion, Peosta, Bettendorf and Belle Plaine, will offer parking, storage and outdoor living space as fixed amenities, but just what those look like will be shaped by residents.

The community space, for instance, could include a coffee shop or a pub.

“Or it could be that residents would like a gardening space or a car wash,” Ms. Everling added. “It’s sort of building a home with your community. Folks can shape what it will be for themselves.”

Once the development is built, developers step out, leaving the governance of the cooperative to the residents themselves. Mr. Baumhoefner said potential shareholders will have access to four floor plans with buy-in ranging from $85,000-$140,000, depending on finishes.

The process begins with buyers putting down a 30-35 percent payment on a share. A monthly maintenance payment once they move in covers everything from the mortgage, utilities and taxes to repair, landscaping and moving services.

“We’re going to see more and more of this type of housing because it’s a great transition between a single-family home and assisted living,” Mr. Baumhoefner said, adding that he’s aware of at least two similar cooperatives going up in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. “I’ve talked to several mayors who see a real need for this kind of housing because nothing exists for this age group, and it frees up homes that people have been living in [single-family homes] for 30 years to new homebuyers at a price they can afford.”

Mr. Baumhoefner said his development company selected Urbana for its first Uptown Living project at the urging of Mayor Mitch McDonough. Though it has a population of just about 1,460, the town has experienced nearly 42 percent growth since 2000, and Ms. Everling said a market study showed a need for housing options aimed at still-youthful seniors.

“You’ve got Clickstop there, and it’s kind of a growing space between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids,” she said. “We wanted to niche out and bring upscale living to smaller communities where people are aging, too.”

Though the cooperative living concept is still relatively new to most people, Ms. Everling said it was important for people to understand owners still build equity, just as they would with a house.

“That is always a big one, especially when they are moving from a home and looking to preserve or reallocate financial resources,” she said. “The share price is only a percentage of the total unit value, which allows most people selling a home to free up some money for other investments if they so choose.”

The biggest selling point, though, is the fact cooperatives like Uptown Living offer the best of both worlds – the privacy and individuality of a single-family home in an amenity-rich community setting.

“It’s for people who aren’t ready for senior living like The Views,” Ms. Everling said. “These are people looking for communal living that’s lively and vibrant.”