Senior citizen housing project takes big step forward




The speed with which the Key West Planning Board approved a proposed new senior citizen facility at Poinciana Plaza recently underscores the need for affordable assisted living care in the area.

The unanimous 4-0 vote on April 21 came with hardly any discussion on the details of the complicated project, which if it receives final approval from the city commission will include 108 studio, one and two bedroom apartments aimed specifically at low and moderate income individuals. Ed Swift, board member on the Florida Keys Assisted Care Coalition, a volunteer non-profit group working to encourage Key West officials to create an elder care community, called the planning board vote one of the most important things in the history of Key West. The Coalition has been working towards this for 15 years, he said.

“This is an incredibly important addition to our community,” Swift told planning board members before their vote. “I wish it was bigger. But it is more than I really had any reason to believe would ever happen.

Planning Board member Fredy Varela, Sr., was the only one on the board to make a comment.

“You’ve got my total support,” he told Manuel Castillo, executive director of the Key West Housing Authority, which owns the land where the new facility would be built. “We’ve been battling this assisted living for, like Ed Swift said, 15 years. It’s finally coming to a close here.”

“I’m starting to believe it. But I’m not quite there yet,” Castillo responded, laughing.

The new building will be built at Poinciana Plaza, Duck Avenue and 17th Street. The three-story structure will replace an existing, four-unit apartment building on the property and will provide 108 apartments for an estimated 116 people. The first two floors will have 60 apartments for more independent seniors, with the third floor offering 48 units with assisted living services, which include more care and supervision for residents.

The size of the independent and assisted apartment will range from 283 square feet to 660 square feet. Rents will range from $430 to $2,340 per month but additional fees and services could boost those rent figures another $750 to $4,900 per month. While all of the units will be reserved for low and moderate income people, the potentially high cost of monthly health and supervision services caused Castillo to comment at a city commission meeting last year when the project was first introduced that affordability and assisted living “don’t exist” together but that this project would help some elderly residents stay in Key West.

There will be an on-site dining room for residents as well as a doctor’s office, plus 37 off-street parking spaces. The total cost of the project is estimated at $14 million and the developer said it will take about 22 months to complete once construction begins.

“The proposed facility will contain supportive spaces including guest and resident vestibules and lobbies, administrative offices, a commercial kitchen with two dining rooms. A first floor non-resident respite care facility is also proposed with a minimum of twenty-five non-residents per day. Additional proposed services include a visiting doctor’s office, arts and craft areas, activity and lounge rooms, a therapy room as well as an exterior courtyard and community garden,” wrote Patrick Wright, a planner in the city planning department in a memo describing his department’s recommendation that the project be approved.

The facility will be managed by Key West Senior Development, a non-profit company owned by American House Senior Living Communities, which operates more than 50 senior housing complexes in Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

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