Rising 14 stories over the Edison landscape is a 30-year-old apartment building with a new name chosen by its residents, the promise of a new look, and many upgrades on the way.
City View in the Square, the new name of the senior housing co-operative that was Washington Square Apartments, will receive $300,000 in improvements in the near future. And upgrades to the interior and exterior, plus enhanced security are coming. These are the first steps in a $6 million renovation plan for the building over five years, says Nancy Evans, general manager for CSI Support & Development.
The announcement was one of two addressing big plans for senior services made at the June 1 Art Hop at Washington Square in Edison.
As a little boy wafted big bubbles through the tent where the news was unfolding, Jay Prince, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Community of Kalamazoo, announced the nonprofit senior housing community on Portage Street expects to invest $60 million over the next 10 years in a wide array of services.
Enhanced rehabilitation and long-term care accommodations, in-home care, independent living housing, memory care, and smart home technologies, as well as an expansion of available housing, are all areas in which Heritage plans to invest.
made the back-to-back announcements in keeping with their new working relationship, one Evans describes as “linking arms in a commitment to provide superior senior housing opportunities for all.”
In an interview before the June 1 announcement, Prince says this is a critical time for organizations who have very similar missions, such as CSI and Heritage, to collaborate.
“Nationally, what they are saying is over the next 10 years, as we drive towards 2030, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every single day. 10,000 a day. And so we know, nationally and locally, we have many, many seniors to serve,” Prince says.
“This will be such a critical time over the next 10 years when it comes to senior services, and no one organization can do it all. It really does take collaboration, and it takes people that are passionate about seniors, that have great quality-of-care.”
Heritage is exploring ways to work with CSI to make sure all seniors have quality options for housing, including making referrals and lending expertise as needed.
Prince says that Heritage recognized that it had property that had served people for more than 50 years, which was no longer adequate due to a lack of accessibility and other issues. The organization also realized that the investment going into the former Washington Square Apartments meant it could take care of many seniors.
“With this investment, there is going to be a beautiful building that's managed and run by a caring, mission-oriented organization, so we are so excited that that's just down the road,” Prince says. “This provides an opportunity for those residents to be able to have a wonderful place to call home and a bright future with a great organization.”
The changes that will be coming for the newly named City View in the Square include exterior improvements to the building and entryway, additional lighting, ornamental fencing, enhanced landscaping, and parking entrance gates for added security.
Over the next five years, CSI plans to refinance and recapitalize City View in the Square. This will allow it to make $6 million in renovations, including extensive upgrades to unit interiors, communal areas, and landscaping.
One example—space will be converted to create lounges on each floor, in part to facilitate council meetings. “They really don’t have a place to meet now,” says Ann Sackrison, vice president of operations for CSI.
In a co-op, residents live in a building they control. The resident members vote on all major operating decisions, including writing the annual budget, though they have no financial equity in the buildings. The membership serves in elected or appointed positions and vote in co-op elections, CSI board elections, corporate bylaw changes, or other matters coming before the members.
Through the co-op model, residents have a role in shaping more than the color of the building. “We know that as you enter the city you see that building,” Evans says. “And to think that seniors of that community had the ability to shape the skyline of Kalamazoo, I think that's pretty amazing.”
Until recently CSI had not recognized the potential at its Kalamazoo co-op since it has never been fully occupied and the information received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was that the local market for seniors was saturated.
“We never questioned that,” Evans says. “Then in our conversations with Jay, and with further research, we discovered that over-saturation has balanced out. And Washington Square has struggled with a serious reputation issue that we feel is unjustified. So that really was the catalyst that led to these changes.”
Both organizations indicate that work by the Kalamazoo County Land Bank also was important in their decisions to move forward. CSI Liaison Sandy Caldwell, who serves much like a property manager, “has a great relationship with Land Bank and has been attending meetings for quite awhile so that we can be part of this future vision of the area,” Evans says.
Improvements to the building also are intended to make it blend better with the neighborhood. “It definitely, right now, doesn't really fit into the neighborhood very well because it's much older,” Evans says. “But our idea for bringing new colors and new lighting will make it look like it fits with the rest of the neighborhood again.”
And CSI’s goal is to improve the quality living experience for seniors while enhancing the Edison Neighborhood.
“When renovations are complete, residents will be able to take a quiet stroll on the new walking path or have a restful sit on a park style bench along the way, while taking in the beauty of the newly appointed gardens,” Evans says.
Located between the Edison and Milwood neighborhoods, Heritage will be following through on the goals it has set for itself since it opened its doors.
“We have always seen ourselves being here to make senior lives better in our city; that's what we're 100 percent about,” Prince says. “At the end of the day, we love this city, and we believe that Kalamazoo's seniors deserve the best.
“And when I say that, we know that seniors are in different places. They have different needs. They have different wants and desires of how they retire. We want to be part of that. We want to be part of that solution of making people's lives better every single day regardless of where they're at in the aging process, or where they are in affordability. And we want to be able to support great partners and great people that have that same passion for our community, as well. And that's exactly what's happening here.”
Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Second Wave Media. She is a freelance writer and editor.