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.


bearded_gnome 11 months, 2 weeks 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.


jananarama 11 months, 3 weeks 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!


Leslie Swearingen 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


Jen43 11 months, 3 weeks ago

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


bearded_gnome 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


consumer1 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I have been searching for a new home for the last 3 months. It is hard to find a nice quiet place where there are no apartment complex(s) close by. If I am going to pay 200grand plus. I do not want loud, cars, parties, and beer bottles all over the street I have to drive on. Nor do I want to find puke in my driveway after someone else's children have been mis-behaving. I raised my child, I don't want to raise anyone else's. That seems to be the job of the people who live here, and it changes and renews each year non stop. So, please get real about this idea. My tax dollars don't need to support this stupidity.


consumer1 11 months, 3 weeks ago

NEWS FLASH!! People in their sixeties don't want college age kids living in their back yards. I agree with Ks liberal.


KansasLiberal 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This thing is a terrible idea and will be a waste of money. Retirees don't want to live with young families and independent living senior citizens don't want to live near a nursing home. The constant sound of ambulance sirens is depressing.


oldbaldguy 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


Stacy Napier 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Yea but its from a KU professor so that makes it ok. If it was a businessman than everyone would be crying.


Phil_Banks2 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This would be a great idea near a beach.


rlsd 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


BringBackMark 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


Steve Jacob 11 months, 3 weeks 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.


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