Tallmadge has one of the oldest populations in Summit County, so Economic Development Director Dennis Loughry spends a lot of his time talking to businesses wanting to serve the area’s seniors.
“I field those calls all day long — about senior housing, assisted living, nursing homes, doctors who specialize in that age group. You name it,” Loughry said.
Now the city is hoping their aging demographic will help win a competitive federal tax credit for one of two proposed senior developments.
“We’ll be fortunate to have one of them accepted. We won’t get both,” Loughry said.
Last week, the Planning and Zoning Commission got the ball rolling.
It recommended in favor of a conditional zoning request for a North Avenue property that could be turned into a town center-style complex, with senior apartments, market-rate condos, and retail and office space.
It also recommended in favor of a site plan for a senior citizens apartment building on Colony Park Drive.
City Council could take up the recommendations this week, enabling both developers to move on to the next step: trying to snag a federal tax credit that provides lower-cost financing as a means to encourage construction of affordable housing for older adults.
The credits are federal, but the state’s Housing Finance Agency determines which projects get them.
New Testa project
The more involved of the two projects on the drawing board is being called Tallmadge City Center and would transform a high-profile vacant property just north of the historic Tallmadge Circle into a town center of sorts, with housing, shopping and services.
The North Avenue site is owned by Joe Scaccio, who bought the old Tallmadge Middle School three years ago for $500,000 and tore it down, except for a historic portion that he saved.
He envisioned a $25 million retail, commercial and entertainment complex similar to First and Main in Hudson, but the recession interfered, and anchor tenants and financing were hard to find.
“I knew I wanted something nice to be there because of its location next to City Hall and the police station,” said Scaccio, who added he has a soft spot for the property because he attended school there. “I didn’t want to see another strip plaza or something common. I wanted something special, and my thinking is, whatever it takes — five years, 10 years, 15 years. Whatever it takes to get something unique.”
Scaccio said he found who he was looking for in Joel Testa, co-owner of Mota Design Group and chief operating officer of Testa Companies.
Testa has had success with mixed-use properties that include a residential component, including the Village at Anna Dean, off Robinson Avenue in Barberton, and his Cuyahoga Falls complex, the Watermark, on Front Street.
Scaccio said that while his original idea did not include a residential component, he sees the benefits to drawing in people who form a base of consumers for the retail and commercial units.
The first phase of the project would use about three of the eight acres.
A single 100,000-square-foot building would feature retail/commercial, such as restaurants and offices, on the first floor. The second and third floors would have 62 apartments for people ages 55 and up. The fourth floor would have 21 market-rate condos available for any age buyer.
If the development takes shape as proposed, a second phase could include three or four more buildings with medical and office space. The old, red brick schoolhouse still standing on the site would be incorporated into the design.
“We don’t have a downtown because of the Circle, but this kind of development on North Avenue would be the start of something like that,” Loughry said. “They would have a boulevard there and a fountain and a community garden, and there may even be a senior center component that would operate in conjunction with the city. It’s really nice what they’re proposing to do.”
Of the second phase, Testa said, “The market has to determine whether this works or not, but that’s our goal.”
Need is present
The second project the city is looking at is for senior apartments only, on Colony Park Drive.
LW Construction Services has proposed 50 apartments of about 900 square feet each.
Loughry said studies show that when older people downsize — moving from their homes to an apartment or condo — they like to stay in the area where they already have a support network of family, doctors, church and familiar stores.
That analysis would support a need for more senior housing in Tallmadge, he said.
Testa said there is a “pretty significant” number of Tallmadge residents ages 55 and older whose incomes are too high to qualify for the low- to moderate-income housing, but “are having a hard time affording” new construction aimed at older buyers.
“We kind of cover everybody,” with the affordable units and the condominiums, Testa said.
Applications for the tax credit both developers are seeking would be made in February. Awards will be announced in April or May.
If either project wins a tax credit, construction could begin this fall or next spring, Loughry said.