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Broadening housing options for Milwaukee's older adults

On Milwaukee’s far northwest side, the Garden Terrace senior apartment complex offers an affordable assisted-living environment for older adults of various income levels, bundled with services that can help them retain their independence. Across town, the new Clarke Square Terrace complex offers similar amenities on the near south side, allowing older adults from the predominantly Latino neighborhood to stay near family, friends, and other vital resources.

Keeping the rent affordable at both sites requires a mix of tax credits and financing. But the rent levels alone can only cover a limited amount of debt. A pair of low-interest loans through a PRI Fund helped fill that gap on both projects, which allows us to build upon the Foundation’s interest in healthy aging in Wisconsin.

Healthy aging is an issue for everyone

“It’s important to reach out to a population that’s underserved,” said Scott Stevlingson, chief executive officer of SunStarr Real Estate Group, LLC the for-profit developer of both projects. “Aging is an issue that touches just about everybody, so we want to create welcoming, affordable homes for our older adults.”

SunStarr has worked on a half-dozen senior living projects throughout the state over the past few years. Based in Fond du Lac, the company was attracted to the area by Milwaukee County’s participation in Family Care, a state pilot program to give older adults more control over the services they receive.

In 2005, SunStarr’s Garden Place was the county’s first development to directly target Family Care participants, who can choose from various supportive, personal, and nursing assistance services. Across the street, the 80-unit Garden Terrace opened in 2008, financed in part by a PRI Fund loan of $400,000 to Garden Terrace Housing, LLC.

The majority of the Garden Terrace units are set aside as affordable living for older adults who need daily living assistance, alongside more independent seniors who rent at market rates.

“Most of our residents are from the north side, but we have had some from as far away as Stevens Point and St. Louis,” said Stevlingson. “Family connections tend to be a major consideration in choosing to live here.”

New facility helps seniors remain independent

Clarke Square Terrace, on the near south side, is built around the same model, offering add-on services that help seniors remain independent, such as laundry or housekeeping. All residents enjoy quality-of-life features that help smooth the transition from a longtime home, such as large storage units for extra items, or play areas for visiting relatives with small children.

A $300,000 Foundation loan to Clarke Square Terrace Housing, LLC. helped finance the 60-unit project, which occupies a once-blighted triangular parcel on Pierce Street. Clarke Square Terrace also offers older residents a convenient location, with a supermarket and pharmacy located right across the street. As Americans age in greater numbers, more and more communities will face the challenge of adequately providing age-appropriate housing, retail, and other infrastructure that reflects their needs.

For Milwaukee older adults, the SunStarr projects send an important message: you don’t need to leave the neighborhood as your needs change.