Quality of Life Drives Upscale Senior Housing Boom

TRAVERSE CITY – Two upscale senior housing developments are slated to be finished by 2013, filling a growing demand by downstate baby boomers seeking sunsets and shopping.

Bloomfield Hills developers Michael Parks and Karen Anderson are planning a $20 million-plus complex of mostly independent living apartments on the north side of Building 50 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, connecting residents to restaurants and boutiques.

Local developer Bill Clous is in the early stages of renovating the bayside Gold Coast Inn in Acme to senior housing, giving residents easy access to the 10.5-mile TART trail system.

Both developments are in response to a trend in housing that is defined by baby boomers seeking low maintenance living, high quality living quarters, and access to services and recreation.

"There's a growing population of retirees choosing places like Traverse City over more summery climes," said Raymond Minervini, II, master developer of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. "They want good dining, outdoor recreation and quality of life. That has been a trend for this region, and they [the developers] saw an opening."

The 2010 census figures showed that the county's over-60 population grew by more than 40 percent in the last decade. In fact, by the year 2020 nearly one in three residents of Grand Traverse County will be age 60 or older, said Georgia Durga, director of the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging.

"Things are not slowing down, especially where the baby boomers are concerned," Durga said. "They are retiring in great numbers right now and it continues to grow."

Parks and Anderson, whose company Cypress Partners develops senior living residences throughout the country, have conducted market research, but since the project is under purchase agreement, it's "not a done deal," Minervini said.

When the deal is done, however, 110 units would be connected through underground tunnels to the Mercato, a collection of shops and restaurants in the 100,000-square-foot Building 50. The tunnels were built as part of the 19th Century state mental asylum that is now enjoying a second life as the multi-use Commons.

The units are also right next to Grand Traverse Pavilions senior residential care facility and about a block away from Munson Medical Center.

The other development would be a conversion of the 30-room Gold Coast Inn in Acme to senior housing. The hotel sits across the road from the bay, and is near to the popular Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) paved bicycling and walking path.

In 2011, the township board changed its zoning ordinance to allow senior housing in its shoreline business district. Now, developer Bill Clous – who said he'd like to see people living there by the first of the year – must file his formal application.

In both developments, most of the units would be independent living apartments.

With more and more baby boomers retiring, housing that is low maintenance and close to services is a growing sub-segment of the real estate market, said Kim Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors®.

"The trend for that age group is toward smaller homes in a walkable setting," he said. "They want to be close to transportation and services, entertainment, and recreation assets like bicycle trails."

Both developments are near other types of housing, like loft apartments and family dwellings, ensuring a mix of generations. Proximity to others is important to today's retirees, Pontius said.

"Boomers resist being called seniors; seniors are their moms and dads," he said. "They see themselves as active and vibrant." BN