A nonprofit organization that has served New Canaan for decades is commissioning a study to determine demand for senior housing in town, officials say.
Due to conclude within about one month, the study forms part of a larger effort to help meet the need for diverse senior housing in New Canaan, according to Russell Barksdale, Jr., president and CEO of Waveny LifeCare Network.
Members of the organization—which includes Waveny Care Center, The Village and The Inn, as well as outpatient and day programs—already have presented to residential real estate brokers to get feedback on one- and two-bedroom apartment styles and layouts that would help a senior “move in and age in place and hopefully never move again,” Barksdale said.
Waveny will continue to solicit feedback from local experts, residents and officials as it looks closely at three parcels of land in New Canaan that may be right for senior housing development, he said, including neighbors of those properties.
“There may be others look at and consider,” Barksdale said.
“The expectation is we will go, before choosing, to meet with the town and go over and meet with neighbors to make sure they can support what we are thinking about doing. So this is not something where we will design it and lay it out and close on the land and then go to [Planning & Zoning] to push it through. This is something where we are going to be inclusive of all the community and give everyone an opportunity to look at it, talk about it, neighbors, look at plans and drawings and make sure before go to P&Z to have input and support to do what we want to do and what we believe is the need for the area.”
Asked what is the range in the number of units Waveny is thinking about creating, Barksdale said the completed market plan and demand study will help determine that figure.
“Keep in mind, there may be a need and demand for 100-plus units, but that 100 plus unit demand doesn’t mean you build 100 units on one location,” he said. “Because everyone wants something different, there will not be one location, in my opinion, that will be everything for everyone. So maybe people want more modest in desk and pricing and that is where the Police Department building may be appropriate for a modest [apartment] or another location. There may be some who want a more high-end and upscale [unit], so that 100-plus demand does not mean you build 100 units on one side, it just means need and demand but there will be some sets within that want different things.”
In addition to determining how many total units of various types are in demand, some seniors may prefer to rent an apartment while others seek to purchase their unit pay a monthly maintenance fee, he said.
Asked whether the Police Department represents one of the three properties that Waveny is looking at, Barksdale said, “There have been town officials who have asked [us] to look at that piece of property.”
Asked what, if anything, he could say about the other two parcels under consideration, Barksdale said, “We have had donors over the years who have donated land and when they donated land it was with the understanding that we will use that land for senior housing.”
He added, “Waveny provides millions of dollars of charity care and uncompensated care to seniors of the community every year, and we will always be mission-driven in what we do, but there will not be one-size-fits-all in terms of any senior housing development. We will look at the need and demand and subsections of the community, and find the best alternatives for them and do so with the support of the town.”
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan in May first publicized the idea that the 1927-built Police Department building on South Avenue, the original New Canaan High School, could be sold with the idea of creating senior housing within it (similar to how the original junior high school across the parking lot, now Schoolhouse Apartments, has been converted to housing). It isn’t clear whether the town will pursue such a transaction now, as the future long-term headquarters of NCPD remains unclear.
In October, a prominent local builder who owns an oversized three-acre lot at Weed and Elm Streets broached the idea of using the land in a public-private partnership that would create senior housing.
Part of what Waveny is seeking to do is create places where local seniors can truly “age in place” rather than move two or three times in later years as their health declines, Barksdale said. The multiple moves involved for a senior belie the name given to such a system, “Continuing Care Retirement Communities” or ‘CCRCs’—for example, Barksdale said, the average length of stay in an assisted living facility is less than two years, whereupon an individual is moved again into a skilled nursing home.
“So the whole concept of aging in place that was the foundation and bedrock of the CCRC is really truly not aging in place because the senior moves three times,” Barksdale said, counting a senior’s original apartment as the first living situation.
The demand study is being conducted by an independent firm that specializes in senior housing, he said.
“I know Waveny has a long history in this community and people are excited about our future here and I am excited to share our future with the community and everyone here,” Barksdale said. “I understand how tight-knit the community is for Waveny and I want to get their input into ideas and suggestions.”