An Ohio-based nonprofit is looking to build 70 affordable senior living apartments near Swannanoa River Road, all set for renters making 60% or lower of the area median income.
The project would serve people either 55 and older, or 62 and older, and won't be an assisted living facility that has on-site support services, according to a report from a neighborhood meeting.
Plans on file with the city for a needed conditional zoning show a single, four-story building on 2.73 acres between Governors View Road and Swannanoa River Road, between Aldi and Four Star Car Wash.
Steve Sceranka, director of real estate development southeast for Buckeye Community Hope Foundation’s Housing Division, said the group doesn't do any market-rate housing.
It owns or manages more than 4,000 units in 11 states, he said.
According to the US Census Bureau, 18.1% of Asheville's estimated 2020 population of 94,589, or roughly 17,120 people, are 65 and older.
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No one making more than 60% of the AMI would be able to rent an apartment at Redwood Commons, he said. The exact mix of rates and rents will come with a market study set to be completed in March.
"It's not market-rate where we put in a high level of amenities and charge $1,200 for a one-bedroom," Sceranka said. "Rent levels (will be) set at a maximum based on area median income, and then you have to have so many units targeted for 60%."
According to Asheville's matrix for affordable housing rates based on data from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, 60% AMI for a single-person household is $31,575, and $36,075 for a two-person household.
Rents tied to that rate, with utilities included, are $846 for a one-bedroom and $1,014 for a two-bedroom.
For this project, developers are seeking federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help fund the project, Sceranka said, as well as a Community Development Block Grant to help offset the cost of purchasing the property.
Buncombe GIS records list two parcels, each reappraised in 2021, at a combined value of just under $530,000: one 0.91-acre parcel at $176,600 and a 1.82-acre parcel at $353,200.
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Sceranka said Buckeye Hope had planned to submit the project last year but ran out of time. The city, he said, asked developers to go above the 49-unit mark that triggers the needed conditional zoning.
The current River zoning district allows up to 49 units in residential developments, leading developers to seek a conditional zoning to the Residential Expansion district.
The next step for Redwood Commons is an Asheville Technical Review Committee meeting March 7. The project will also go before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission and ultimately be approved or denied by City Council.
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Neighbor concerns to be addressed
A project narrative included with the application says the site had formerly been used for a number of light industrial purposes but is formerly vacant, bordering single-family homes to the north, an Aldi grocery store to the east and a car wash to the west.
"The site is proposed to be rezoned for multi-family affordable housing due to its proximity to multiple services, including a grocery store and public transportation," it says.
The site is about half a mile from the intersection of Swannanoa River Road and South Tunnel Road near Asheville Mall.
Plans on file for the first-floor layout show a mix of two- and one-bedroom apartments with a multi-purpose room, tenant storage and laundry areas.
The L-shaped building and associated parking will sit to the north side of the property to avoid a floodway, the narrative says, along Governors View Road, providing room for a buffer of greenspace along Swannanoa River Road.
Sidewalks are planned throughout the site to allow residents access to Governors View Road and a bus stop on Swannanoa River Road.
At a Jan. 27 neighborhood meeting at Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen on Bleachery Boulevard, neighbors express disappointment in the building height and shared concerns about lighting and building size.
According to that report, the existing landowner shared a prior engagement with a commercial developer hoping to build a strip mall with a Dollar Tree as the anchor, and previous inquiries for the property to be subdivided into 1-acre parcels for individual development.
The landowner expressed the desire to select BCHF, since the group wishes to purchase the entire property, according to the neighborhood meeting report.
Neighbors shared other concerns about the car wash operations, relocation of an existing stream, lighting in the parking lot, and disappointment in not being able to provide input on the design, feeling it's a done deal, though developers said they'd incorporate those concerns into the development and noted future opportunities for public input.
They're also waiting on market research to determine how many units can be approved based on a funding application to state and federal governments, it says, adding that if market research doesn't support the full 70 units, the plan will be revised based on market research, set to be released in March.
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Due to extensive grading, plans say no trees can be preserved, with plans to meet the city's Tree Canopy Preservation Ordinance by planting 63 new trees for a total new canopy of 32,585 square feet.
Deemed a Class B, or urban site under the ordinance, plans say 17,838 square feet, or 15% of the site, is required to be tree canopy since no existing trees can be preserved.
For concerns on lighting, Sceranka said lights will be designed to shine downward so neighbors looking out their windows won't be looking at bright lights like streetlights that are designed to shine outward.
He said the height of the building, at 60 feet according to plans, is within what's allowed by right in the zoning district, and while neighbors will be looking at the building, their current view is of the Aldi parking lot and the Walmart across the river.
Buckeye Hope will be a partner in the project, and will likely manage Redwood Commons as well, Sceranka said, while it's still to-be-determined whether or not the group will wait until it gets a few more projects built before that makes sense,
Once the complex is leased out, he said the foundation will begin working with its social services staff to plan programs at the site, a staff of around 40 employees who rotate through the company's buildings teaching educational programs on everything from reconciling checkbooks to health and wellness seminars.
The first-floor community room will house social services that could potentially be open to the public, and a small library with computers for residents.
Last year, the organization was awarded a very similar project in Kernersville, he said, and according to its website operates in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Derek Lacey covers environment, growth and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at [email protected] or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.