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Senior housing crowds Madison’s south side

Paul Snyder

A private developer’s pitch for a senior-housing development on Madison’s south side mirrors a city-led project a mile and a half away.

“My first thought was whether it would affect what we’re looking at,” said Stu Levitan, a member of the city’s Community Development Authority. “It’s a fair question to ask, and we’ll have a chance soon to ask those questions.”

Tom Sather, president of Middleton-based Silverstone Partners Inc., said his firm is considering building an estimated $7 million senior housing project in Bay Creek Neighborhood.

At the same time, the city is on its way to buying properties in nearby Burr Oaks Neighborhood for another senior housing development. Alderman Tim Bruer, who represents the area, said the city will have spent $3 million by year’s end buying and demolishing apartment buildings. The city is expected to request development proposals within two months.

“I don’t have any concerns at this time,” Bruer said about the projects possibly vying for residents. “The Silverstone project may be marketing to a different type of senior in terms of income, and the city’s is going to be off the drawing board a lot quicker.

“This part of the city has one of the highest concentrations of seniors in Madison, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Bruer said he does not have numbers to support the claim, and the most recent data the city has on the aging population on the south side is from the 2000 census. According to that census, the over-60 population was 22.2 percent, almost double the citywide average of 11.9 percent.

Sather said he is not familiar with the city’s plans for the Burr Oaks project but will seek resident input at a neighborhood meeting for the project Wednesday.

“I think with the proximity to residential neighborhoods and medical facilities, there are just some obvious conveniences to having that kind of project there,” Sather said.

But if either project is to succeed, the developers might have to look beyond Madison’s borders, said Bruce Beckman, spokesman for Capitol Lakes Retirement Community in downtown Madison.

Capitol Lakes is working on a plan to add 12 apartments to its building, and Beckman said the units likely will fill up fast. But he said that’s because the company is marketing to areas as far away as Chicago.

“One of the trends we notice is people relocating to Madison,” he said. “The downtown market here is very attractive, but in Madison alone, there might not be the demographics to support new retirement centers.

“I would think there would be severe occupancy problems.”

Patricia Eldred, a spokeswoman for Madison-based Independent Living Inc., disagreed. She said senior housing stock relies on too many factors to determine whether two proposals will conflict with each other.

“Madison’s proposal will be serving mixed- or low-income families,” Eldred said, “so if the other proposal isn’t supporting that, it might not be a problem.”

But it’s still something the city needs to consider, Levitan said. The CDA will review the city project Oct. 8.

“There’s been no independent analysis on the need for senior housing in this area,” Levitan said. “But the city’s already appropriated money, and I can only assume there are developers looking at this.

“I guess right now you just have to think they’re far enough apart that they won’t cannibalize each other.”

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