Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Local nonprofit is getting a stake in 140 senior apartments in Calabash

The site plan for Calabash 15. The apartment project will provide about 140 units total and 20 affordable units to local seniors.

BOLIVIA — A senior housing project shut down in the permitting phase two years ago is back with a new plan, more units and an income stream built in for a Brunswick County nonprofit.

The county originally agreed to transfer 3.5 acres directly behind the Brunswick Center at Calabash to Brunswick Senior Resources Incorporated — which administers all of the county’s senior center programs across its five locations — in 2019. The plan was to build a 60-unit senior apartment building on the site but it never came to fruition.

READ MORE: Over 4,000 units could be on the way to Brunswick County

The project would have needed a special use permit, which it submitted in July 2020, to increase its housing density from 11 units per acre to 13. The Calabash Planning Board accepted the change, but the town board of commissioners did not, denying the request that October.

BSRI executive director Jim Fish told Port City Daily the nonprofit was faced with either reducing the number of apartments or acquiring more land to meet the density requirement to make the project work as originally conceived.

The organization saw a third option and took it: 3.5 acres would instead become amenity space that BSRI manages adjoining a privately owned senior apartment complex. Cranwood Capital, which partners with BSRI, worked out a deal with construction firm Geis Companies to build 140 units on the adjoining 15 acres of land it owns. The project would include 15,000 square feet of recreational green space, community gardens, a dog park, swimming pool and clubhouse.

BSRI will manage the amenity space and the existing senior center programming next door, and in exchange will receive a 1% services fee paid quarterly totaling about $50,000 and a 7% ownership stake with an estimated value of $950,000 over the next 10 years.

Fish told PCD his organization will not pay a dime of the build cost.

He said the project and cost-offsetting measures line up with why his organization was spun off from the county 20 years ago: to increase the amount of services it provides without raising taxes.

Fish said BSRI has the freedom to make real estate deals like this to cover its increasing costs, access more private financing, grants and private fundraising. The organization also operates thrift stores in Calabash and Shallotte to raise money.

“The county can be in the water and sewer business, but the truth is, if they need a couple extra hundred thousand dollars, they’re not going to go out and open two or three thrift stores,” Fish said. “They’re going to raise taxes. Nonprofits have the flexibility to do some things governing bodies don’t.”

The development will be designed for seniors from the ground up. The cost of each two-bedroom unit is $2,800 per month and is all-inclusive, covering rent, electricity, water, meals and basic medical care. One unit will be reserved for a nurse to live on site. Fish said the units are intended for two people.

Fish said the development will be a good place for people ages 55 and older to have their needs met while maintaining their independence. The project, referred to in planning documents as Calabash 15, can serve as an intermediary before moving to a more intensive care home.

Twenty of the units will be affordable and managed by BSRI. They will be offered at $2,200 per month and eligible for federal section 8 housing vouchers on top of that. Fish said municipalities can be skeptical of tax credit housing at first, but seniors receiving housing assistance typically do not produce any additional crime and demographically they are the most-likely to pay rent on time.

Fish pointed to the need for more affordable senior housing in the area, noting 83% of the Calabash population is 55 or older.

He estimated the project will be built in 14 to 16 months. Site prep on the 15 acres has already begun. Fish said in the unlikely event Geis went bankrupt, BSRI would only be stuck with the amenities built on its property.

Commissioner Frank Williams applauded the project for bringing the board a proposal without asking for public funding.

“I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” commissioner Marty Cooke said.

The commissioners unanimously approved a motion to transfer the 3.5 acres to BSRI pending attorney approval. The transfer is expected by the end of the month.

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