By Michael Howell
Ravalli County Council on Aging Executive Director Paul Travitz has been working for several years now on trying to attract developers to the Council on Aging campus located on Old Corvallis Road.
The 20 acres of land, of which the Council on Aging’s office complex takes up about three acres, was donated to the agency in 2000 by Susie Wilkinson. The Council donated four acres to the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority which constructed the Entrepreneurial Center. That left the Council on Aging with about 12 acres of land that could be developed.
Travitz said that over the years improvements were made. The property was annexed by the City of Hamilton and the property is served by city water and sewer. Not only that, it already has natural gas service, electricity, high speed internet and cable installed. A few other improvements were made like the installation of a road and even a sidewalk. But still no takers. The economic crash of 2009 and the slow return was taking its toll.
“We finally realized that if anything was going to happen with this property, we needed to do it ourselves,” said Travitz.
In doing his research into possibilities for developing the land to its full potential, a couple of different but complimentary options came to the fore. One was a vision modeled after the Green House Project www.thegreenhouseproject.org that would add two 10-bed assisted living units immediately to the east and south of the existing office complex. The rest of the property would be developed on the model of the Pocket Neighborhood concept developed by Architect Ross Chapin www.pocket-neighborhoods.net as a community target for active adults aged 55 or older.
Travitz is currently working with Kay Clevidence of Farmers State Bank, Julie Foster, Executive Director of Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, architect Ross Chapin, Terri Sult of Chi Partners LLC and Mauro Hernandez, of Concepts in Community Living, Inc. to put his vision in place.
The total project cost is estimated at $11 million. According to Travitz, funding is in place for the Green House portion of the project, estimated at $3.5 million. Some financing options have been identified for the Adult Cottage Cooperative portion of the development including a potential USDA B&I guarantee and possible a Rural Development Land Grant.
“Most housing resources are aimed at low income individuals,” said Travitz. “This project is not low income housing.” But he does consider it “affordable housing.” He said because they were developing it themselves they could keep some of the costs down. He said what the Council on Aging looks to get out of the deal once it is built out and functioning is the lease on the land. He said the plan is for the Council on Aging to keep ownership of the land and the Adult Cottage Cooperative will lease it. At full build-out, he said, it could provide the Council on Aging with up to $40,000 annually in income from the lease.
Travitz said that the cooperative model, new in Montana, provides for additional choice beyond rental or condominiums for active adults who are looking to downsize from a larger home and property to something maintenance-free, providing time for more enjoyable activities. He said the Pocket Neighborhood model provides for a closely connected community with large front porches for greeting neighbors, but offers the privacy of a detached home with private space and gardens.
Travitz said that cooperative participants own shares in their home, with the average share price to be determined through cost modeling using a limited equity formula. He said that it was designed to keep the homes in the cooperative affordable for future homeowners.
About 40 single-family cottages are planned with 8 to 10 cottages per pocket. There will be a community building and market place structures for independent business and retail space for things such as a coffee shop, barber/beauty salon, etc. Besides the shared common spaces in each pocket there will also be two acres of common parkland.
Travitz said at first it was planned to have common parking areas and people would take walking paths to their cottages.
“We decided in the end to add a small garage to each cottage,” he said.
Cottage residents will also have priority for openings in the assisted living units if they should decide to take advantage of those services at some point and may transfer any equity in their cottage to the assisted living unit.
One of the assisted living buildings provides regular assisted living accommodations and services. The other provides memory care/dementia services including adult daycare.
Travitz is excited about the project. He believes the timing is right and the need is there.
For more information about the project contact Paul Travitz at 363-5690.