Geer plans to build new affordable units for elderly
By Karen Bartomioli
Meeting to show drawings is May 18
NORTH CANAAN — A large expansion to the Beckley House senior apartments is in the works. The public will get a look at the plan and the current facility at Beckley House on May 18 at 4 p.m.
Beckley House was built nine years ago, on the site of the old Robert C. Geer Memorial Hospital. From that facility the Geer campus grew to include the nursing home, adult day center and Geer Village, which offers every level of senior living, from independent to a memory-impaired unit.
The greatest need is for easily accessible, affordable apartments. Beckley has 24 federal Housing and Urban Development-subsidized units. It also has a perpetual waiting list that has been as high as 25 individuals and couples.
“When we opened, it filled within 90 days, and we have had no vacancies since,” said Geer Corporation COO John Horstman. “The waiting list is at about 16 right now, and the administrator is always prequalifying people on the list so they can move in as soon as an apartment opens up.”
The plan is to build an addition at the back (the side facing Route 7) to include 10 new apartments.
“It won’t cost a heck of a lot to build,” Horstman said. “We are working with the same architect who did the original building and it looks like we will be able to use the same elevator and probably the same heating system. That’s a huge savings.”
It will take away some of the parking there, but Horstman said there will be plenty of spaces left.
“There are no zoning requirements for the number of spaces there,” he said. “I’ve gone out on a normal day and counted more than 30 empty spaces. Many of the residents don’t drive.”
The plan started to come together when Geer was approached by grant consultant David Berto. He is the same consultant working with the Cornwall Housing Corporation on its now-approved plan for a similar facility on Route 7 in Cornwall Bridge.
A HUD grant will be sought for construction, as well as a state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) grant and funding from a private foundation.
All of the apartments will be subsidized as a HUD 202 project so that residents who meet income guidelines pay rent equal to half their income. That covers all utilities, except for cable television.
How much it will cost to build is driven by what HUD agrees to pay. Horstman explained that HUD allocates $150 per apartment, and approves a specific number of apartments, rather than a dollar amount. Beckley House is operated as its own financial entity, independent of other Geer facilities. According to Horstman, as long as at least the majority of apartments are occupied, it will sustain itself.
The informational meeting on May 18 is one of the things that will earn Geer an advantage on the HUD application.
“They give us points for doing things such as notifying people who might benefit from the project, and getting their input. An example of some of the other things we can do is show the stores located within a half mile of the project.”
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