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Construction woes slow down progress on unique senior living community in west Lawrence
Based on recent history, slowing down apartment construction in Lawrence requires something akin to Kryptonite. Apartment construction has been booming and generally fast-moving, which may be why some of you began asking questions about what was going on with a project under construction at Sixth and Queens Road. Work slowed dramatically on the housing project, but the developers tell me it definitely is on track to become a reality.
The project in question is the Village Cooperative, a 52-unit senior living community at the southwest corner of Sixth and Queens Road. Construction on the project started in September of 2016, and its developers had hoped it would be ready for occupancy this summer. Instead, the project is still missing a roof and is still months away from completion.
The development group, Minnesota-based Real Estate Equities Development LLC, said the project wasn’t moving as quickly as it would like, but the slowdown wasn’t a sign the unique project had encountered a problem. Instead, it has had some bad construction luck.
The project includes a 57-space underground parking garage. Some untimely rains caused that part of the project to take longer than expected. More recently, the project has suffered from a problem that is beginning to emerge in the Kansas City area: a shortage of construction crews.
“We are hearing that across the KC metro area there has been a shortage of some types of labor,” Andrew Schaefer, a vice president for Real Estate Equities, said. “We are having to try to find some new subcontractors. That has slowed us down a little.”
Schaefer, though, said the project is now trending in the right direction, but the group is not yet ready to provide a projected opening date for the facility. That’s certainly become an issue in Lawrence. We have reported how apartment builders in the community have struggled to meet projected opening dates, leaving tenants looking for temporary living accommodations.
The Village Cooperative project has an extra twist. As its name implies, it is a cooperative, meaning it is not your traditional apartment project. The cooperative concept means each resident is actually a partial owner of the entire building. In this case, residents essentially will own a 1/52nd share of the building, since there are 52 living units in the facility.
The cooperative concept is a fairly uncommon one for the Lawrence market, but development officials said they’re pleased with how the market has taken to it. Shane Wright, another vice president with Real Estate Equities, said nearly 80 percent of the units have been sold. He said the average selling price has been about $135,000, although some of the smaller units have sold for about $85,000.
“The average price has been a lot less than the average price of a new home in Lawrence,” he said.
Residents do face other expenses beyond the purchase price. They are assessed a monthly fee that is their proportional share of the expenses for the entire building. That ranges from about $900 to $1,400 a month, Wright said. It includes items such a lawn care, building maintenance, water, sewer and trash service. But it also includes other types of expenses that normally would come out of a homeowner’s pocket. For example, the dishwasher breaks. Because the building is owned by the cooperative, it actually is the cooperative’s responsibility to replace or repair the dishwasher, not the resident’s. The monthly fee covers those types of expenses, Wright said.
The cooperative concept, which is fairly common in larger cities, is causing Lawrence residents to do some figuring on whether the structure makes financial sense for them. Wright said he challenges potential buyers to think about all the money they spend on their homes, not just what they pay on a monthly mortgage.
“If you take all the hidden costs of owning a house, you basically are eliminating that component, plus you are eliminating a lot of hassles,” Wright said.
The concept also requires prospective buyers to think about how they sell their shares, when that time comes. Unlike a house, you don’t simply sell it to the highest bidder. Sales are done through the co-op association.
It will be interesting to watch how the concept evolves in Lawrence. The community is billing itself as a retirement destination, and the cooperative model is one that gets used frequently in those types of communities.
As for what to expect once the facility opens, it will include a bar and pub, an exercise room, a multipurpose and crafting area, a woodworking shop and even a car wash. Wright said this will be the 22nd project the company has built — it has about a half-dozen in Kansas City — which has given developers a good idea of what amenities residents want most. Wright said the common gathering areas end up being near the top of the list.
“They love the camaraderie this type of living provides,” Wright said. “That ends up being a huge component of it.”