Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Project to build intergenerational retirement community in Lawrence moving ahead

April 29, 2013


Lawrence’s efforts to become more of a retirement destination are set to kick into a higher gear in the coming weeks.

Local leaders confirmed they plan to announce by the end of the month the creation of a new 15-member nonprofit board that would be tasked with creating a first-of-its-kind intergenerational retirement community in Lawrence.

Dennis Domer, who is leading the project through Kansas University’s School of Architecture, Design and Urban Planning’s New Cities Project, said he hopes to have a feasibility study on the multimillion-dollar project completed within the next 90 to 120 days.

“I think people are getting excited about the possibility,” Domer said. “I think the university is excited about what could be accomplished, and I think the city and the county are too.”

Local officials got a taste of the idea earlier this year. In February, city commissioners approved $12,500 in funding to help form the new nonprofit entity that would be responsible for fleshing out the details of the plan.

At this point, those details include a development of 20 to 60 acres that would include a mix of single-family homes, apartments and condominiums designed to attract people 62 years and younger. The private sector would build those living units.

But the project also would include a not-for-profit “continuing care retirement community” that would offer independent-living, assisted-living, skilled-nursing and memory-care facilities.

Domer said the combination would produce a first-of-its-kind neighborhood that is designed to integrate multiple generations into a single development.

“The intergenerational component is what is attracting quite a bit of attention,” Domer said. “People are realizing that retirees don’t want to be stigmatized as old, and that is what happens if you are segregated and put into a community on the edge of town.”

The concept got publicity this week in an article on The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch Web site that listed Lawrence as one of three Kansas cities ripe for retirees.

Domer said the intergenerational development could be ready for homes by 2017, but the next few months will go a long way in determining whether that vision is accurate.

Domer hopes to hold the first board meeting for a new nonprofit entity, tentatively named Campus Village, by late May. He hopes one of the first actions of the new board — Domer declined to release the names of board members because the complete roster hasn’t yet been finalized — will be to hire a consultant that can complete an analysis of the retiree market and determine if the concept is feasible in Lawrence.

But community leaders are betting that the city can become more attractive to retirees, who they believe will provide added income and resources to the city’s economy.

“The combination of KU, Haskell and Baker University has a lot of potential to get alums to move back to the community,” said Mike Wildgen, interim director of Douglas County Senior Services.

Douglas County Senior Services also is expected to become more active in the retiree-attraction efforts in the near term. The organization’s board of directors has been revamped, and the group is holding a retreat Tuesday to talk about some of the retiree-attraction issues.

Wildgen said Senior Services is set to become the organization that manages a new online portal designed to provide information to retirees and those who are thinking of retiring in Lawrence.

Part of the process will involve hiring a new director for the organization. Wildgen, a former Lawrence city manager who is managing the organization on a temporary basis, said board members are expected at Tuesday’s retreat to set a timetable for filling the position.


Steve Jacob 5 years, 1 month ago

It all sounds good, I just get a bad feeling about it already. A contractor builds a bunch of homes with millions in tax breaks in return they build a few homes for retirees. I know, I am sounding like a Republican and I don't like it, but we saw what happened with Rock Chalk Center. The words "multimillion-dollar project" scares me.

BringBackMark 5 years, 1 month ago

This is goofy. I hope we don't spend much more than the $12,500 on it. So what does the "62 and Younger" group have to do with it? "The private sector would build those living units." So if I'm 40 and just have a desire to move into this "one of a kind" development I just build there? If the Wall Street Journal likes it maybe they should try it in New York first and see how it goes over, whatever it is......

Let's stop wasting time and money and start developing strategies to maintain or lower property taxes, slow down the runaway cost of utilities, and make this a community that attracts people. That's how we'll become a retirement mecca. We've got plenty of people getting old around here, the only problem is it's not affordable to live here once you retire.

Sue McDaniel 5 years, 1 month ago

Another great pie in the sky idea to make builders money. I hate to say most retirees do not want to be to close to younger families unless they are their own. Screaming kids, traveling groups of kids, bouncing basketballs, 16 year old drivers, been there done that. I like the idea of peace and quiet. THIS town NEEDS jobs with a decent wage.

Larrytown 5 years, 1 month ago

Actually....there's a big demand for the retirement age population (some of them) wanting to live in college towns. Night life, food, entertainment, sporting events, musicals, etc. etc. that can be found, in my opinion, the best town in Kansas.....Lawrence.

Should be an interesting project....

gatekeeper 5 years, 1 month ago

I've been trying to get my mother to move to town and she refuses because as she puts it "why would I want to live where there are lots of annoying, partying kids". Retirees want piece and quiet, not crazy partying kids. She's been up here enough to see how bad the driving is (too many young, inexperienced drivers in college towns). There are activities and things that older people want to do. The shopping pretty much sucks. The hospital is small and many would still need or want to go to Topeka or KC to a larger, better hospital. We checked and her supplemental insurance has no doctors in town that she could use. There are so many reasons retirees don't want to be in college towns.

Larrytown 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm assuming you then corrected your mother in letting her know that she would not be moving into a fraternity, dorm, Oread neighborhood, etc. West Lawrence would be a pretty good fit for her...much like it would be for a number of retirement age people.

Also, LMH is a pretty good hospital (they receive a number of awards). I'm assuming you corrected her on that as well.

Again, there are so many recent articles talking about how retirees are moving to college towns. They can live away from the campus...but have the benefits/energy that Lawrence provides.

gatekeeper 5 years, 1 month ago

I don't need to correct my mother. She knows Lawrence very well because I've lived here for over 20 years and she's spent plenty of time here. She knows it's a party town. She doesn't want to hide on the west side. LMH is average, but not the best. Even my local doctor has sent me to OP Regional for a kidney issue I have because they are better than LMH. Why would she want to live in a town where she can't use her excellent, supplemental insurance (which many older people have)?

So, she can live in West Lawrence, have no real activities to be involved with (seriously, what the heck is there in this town for old people to do unless you like to play golf) and drive to KC for good doctors and hospitals.

Seriously, explain the awesome benefits for older people that this college town provides. High property taxes? Young, bad drivers? A failing economy and city govt? Lack of things for older people to do??

Larrytown 5 years, 1 month ago

No surprise...kidney issues may require specialized medicine (hence the trip to KC where the resources are better).

I'm confused about the no real activities in West Lawrence. I was under the impression that you wanted a quiet neighborhood. Which is it? A quick car ride (10 minutes) can get you to the country, state lake, Lied Center, downtown Lawrence, Allen Fieldhouse, etc... As I stated in a previous message...these are some of the many benefits that Lawrence.

P.S. Watch out for all those college kids drag racing, jumping medians, etc. It's a dangerous world out there on the streets of Lawrence.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 1 month ago

I just do not see where you are going to get these folks to live there. Many dumb ideas come from academia. Good ones too.

Larrytown 5 years, 1 month ago

Nonsense....plenty of quiet neighborhoods in Lawrence.

gatekeeper 5 years, 1 month ago

If you can afford to live at Alvamar. The average retired person doesn't have lots of money to spend and don't need a monster house. Take a good look at areas with affordable housing and you might start to get the point.

I have a feeling your part of the board that's behind this push.

Larrytown 5 years, 1 month ago

Nope...not part of the board behind the push and no vested interest whatsoever...just someone interested in the everyday happenings going on in Lawrence. BTW...first I've heard of this project.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 1 month ago

Where in lawrence could this be located?

I'm asking this serious question: within three miles of campus, where's the land available for such a developement like this of this scale? I don't think it's there.

*I also think that such a living development fails from the outset if it is not planned from the start with considerations to keep housing costs very low for a substantial number of the seniors who'd live there.

Jen43 5 years, 1 month ago

I think what the planers really want are Wealthy Retirees, not just ordinary people.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 1 month ago

I would like to make a comment on behalf of the college kids. I am sixty-seven and very much enjoy talking with them. I have met people from all over the world and have learned that we are all interested in the same things.

There is nothing wrong with going to a club and dancing. All who do this do not misbehave. They have a few drinks, enjoy the evening and go home. The thing is that it is the loud ones who get the most attention. The responsible ones not so much.

We should also keep in mind that when it is YOUR noise, it is not loud. Then, its fun, and that is true for all of us.

jananarama 5 years, 1 month ago

intergenerational doesn't necessarily mean college kids. as someone who is experiencing the very real sandwich effect of aging parents and kids who are still in elementary school, I'm very intrigued by this concept.

my grandparents used to live in a beautiful, but low-cost, retirement community in northwestern Arkansas. independent living but with emergency pull-cords throughout the duplex. even room for my grandma's beloved tomato and strawberry plants.

I've often wondered why we don't have something like that here. more of a retirement neighborhood with beautiful private and shared outdoor spaces instead of just a retirement building. but low cost is essential!

bearded_gnome 5 years, 1 month ago


where??? if it's supposed to be convenient to campus, all the real estate is gone. unless they're going to knock down a bunch of stuff, lol.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.