Senior living campus is possible near Casey’s Pond |

Senior living campus is possible near Casey’s Pond

YVMC officials: Housing construction could start in summer 2011

— The first residents of a new senior living campus in Steamboat Springs could begin moving into their new homes in early 2013 if everything falls into place for the developers.

Yampa Valley Medical Cen­ter CEO Karl Gills confirmed this week that the hospital has entered into a letter of understanding to purchase 5.5 acres of land immediately east of Casey's Pond on the city's south side. Construction on a variety of senior housing products, including new care facilities for people experiencing memory loss, could begin as early as summer 2011.

"The primary intent is to create a single-site campus that includes independent living, assisted living and memory care services and skilled nursing facilities," Gills said. "The property meets key project objectives including site capacity, proximity to health care services, access to community activities and scenic surroundings."

A formal contract for the purchase of the site could be complete this month, he added.

The plans also imply that the skilled nursing rooms currently at the Doak Walker Care Center at YVMC would relocate to the new neighborhood. Gills said the board of YVMC is committed to serving its existing client base at the Doak, including Medicaid patients.

"Our baseline is we have to care for the same population the Doak is caring for today," Gills said.

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He added that a significant impetus for the project is the growing demand for assisted living facilities that would allow current Steamboat residents to relocate elderly parents to the Yampa Valley from distant cities.

Ultimately, Gills said, YVMC would neither develop nor directly oversee operation of the new senior living community. Instead, he said, a separate nonprofit board is being formed to finance the development, work with a developer and oversee long-term operations of the facility.

YVMC's debt structure does not allow the hospital to take a primary role in financing the project, he said. Still, it will make a significant financial contribution to the project, representing the "skin in the game" needed to allow the new board to leverage debt. It's anticipated, Gills said, that roughly two-thirds of the money needed to build the facility would be supplied by tax-exesmpt bonds insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The final third would come from the sale of bonds backed by the projected revenues for the housing project.

Pearl could be developer

YVMC retained Pearl Sen­ior Living to advise it on the site selection for the new senior campus, and, although no decision has been made, Gills said, negotiations for Pearl to become the development partner in the project are under way. There is also the possibility that in the future, Pearl could operate the facilities.

"The Yampa Valley Medical Center staff and the board work well with Pearl," Gills said. "We think they have the knowledge, expertise and ethic needed to work in this community."

Pearl, with offices in Bou­lder, Denver and Reno, Nev., recently conducted focus groups with area residents to gather their wants and needs in senior living facilities for themselves and for their aging parents.

"The participants were very enthusiastic and excited about the location," Pearl principal Tom Finley said.

Finley and colleague Charles Gee, while working together for a firm called McKenzie House, worked on acquisition, finance and operations for the MorningStar senior neighborhoods in suburban Denver. In terms of design and style, they approximate what the Steamboat project might look like, he said.

Their colleague Phil Shapiro, wor­king independently, developed The Lodge at Sierra Sunrise in Chico, Calif., which is representative of a senior community that offers a full range of senior living, Finley said. See more at under the "about" tab.

Pearl has been involved in the creation of MorningStar senior living neighborhoods in suburban Denver.

This is YVMC's second go-round in 15 months in the effort to create a new planned senior living community that would offer everything from independent living to assisted living and a long-term care facility. The hospital was pursuing a similar plan on a parcel three-quarters of a mile south in October 2008. However, challenges with The Bridges site that straddled the Yampa River led the hospital to withdraw from that proposal. Gills said the research conducted for The Bridges and the work done with the City Planning Department gave YVMC a jump on the new project.

"Nationally, this is a fairly common model now, but it's a rarity in most resort communities," Gills said. "This is going to be a major community asset in its own right."