Monday, March 19, 2012

McHenry Woods senior facility wins preliminary OK

At its meeting last Wednesday, Cincinnati City Council approved by a vote of 7-2 a rezoning that paves the way for the construction of McHenry Woods, a new independent senior living community in East Westwood.

The rezoning changes the vacant 7.3-acre property at 3454 McHenry Avenue from single-family residential (SF-6) to Planned Development District (PD) No. 66.

McHenry Woods would provide 43 one-bedroom units to seniors 62 and older, to be located in a single two-story building of 17,873 square feet. An additional two-bedroom unit would be included for the property manager, and 49 surface parking spaces will be provided.

The majority of the funding for the development would come from federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 grants. Property owner North Fairmount Community Center (NFCC) is pursuing those grants, and the proper zoning was required to be in place to be eligible for funding.

Community fears

The Westwood Civic Association (WCA) opposed the development and the change in zoning, arguing that additional multi-family housing in the area would be harmful to the surrounding neighborhoods. It also claimed that, due to poor management, senior-only developments sometimes transition to buildings serving all age groups.

Instead, WCA presented concepts to the City Planning Commission for single-family units to be developed on the site. But NFCC Director Lois Broerman said that there was simply no market for them.

To put any fears to rest, City Council's Livable Communities Committee in September 2011 instructed City planning staff to explore the PD zoning, instead of the residential multi-family zoning approved by the City Planning Commission in May 2011.

The PD zoning change stipulates that, should NFCC not win the HUD grant, the property will revert back to its single-family zoning. NFCC would be required to seek another zoning change for any future proposed use.

HUD is expected to announce its Section 202 grantees this fall. If McHenry Woods wins funding, construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.

A final development plan, to be prepared by Studio for Architecture, Inc., still must be approved by the City Planning Commission – and then to City Council – before building permits can be issued and construction can commence.

Pictured: Summerside Woods, a similar project in Clermont County designed by Studio for Architecture, Inc. and opened in Summer 2010.