Two new senior housing projects getting under way in Lawrence

There are more signs that Lawrence is growing older.

There are at least two new projects in the senior housing industry in Lawrence. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to finalize a sales tax exemption request for a $2.1 million construction project for Neuvant House in west Lawrence.

As we reported back in July, plans have been filed by Neuvant House to significantly expand its building at 1216 Biltmore Dr. Well, those plans are now moving forward.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Neuvant House is expected to receive industrial revenue bonds, which will allow the project to buy its construction materials without paying sales tax.

The project essentially will double the amount of space Neuvant House has to care for people with dementia and other ailments. The new building — which will be located adjacent to the company’s existing facility — will have 14 private rooms, some of which will be able to accommodate not only the patient but also a spouse.

The facility also will have several common areas, including a living room, an exercise room, a whirlpool room, a beauty shop and other amenities.

Neuvant House’s current facility specializes in treating people with dementia. The new facility will have a broader focus, according to Matthew Stephens, administrator for the Lawrence location. The company has had a waiting list at its current facility since about December 2011.

Construction is expected to begin soon, and probably will take about nine months to complete.

As for the industrial revenue bonds for the project, the state previously had a program that allowed projects like this one to apply for a special sales tax exemption on construction materials. But that program recently was discontinued, and such projects have been instructed to apply for industrial revenue bond financing instead. The city has no obligation to pay the IRBs if there is a default. And with these industrial revenue bonds, the project does not receive a property tax abatement.

The new addition is expected to pay more than $20,000 a year in property taxes, and create 10 new jobs with an average salary of about $30,000 per year. The company will save anywhere from about $55,000 to $90,000 in sales taxes with the exemption, depending on the final cost of construction.

The second project is at the longtime Lawrence retirement community Presbyterian Manor.

The entire Presbyterian Manor group recently refinanced much of its debt, and that freed up $600,000 in funds for the Lawrence facility to renovate its apartments.

The facility at 1429 Kasold Dr. has 73 independent-living townhomes and apartments. The new project is part of a multiyear funding plan to renovate the units. Rhonda Parks, executive director of the facility, said plans call for new kitchens, bathrooms, carpets, tile and other improvements. The work will be done as apartments and townhomes become vacant.

“The market has been good, and we’re very appreciative of that,” Parks said of the demand for senior housing in the community.

The new projects come at a time when the city and county are making a push to boost Lawrence’s appeal as a retirement community. Those efforts include talk of a major “intergenerational neighborhood” that would be built somewhere in the city and would include independent living and retirement home services.