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Libraries present new Senior Living Opportunities: A win for everyone

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One of the most important first steps for developing any new senior living community is identifying a viable project site. There are many key metrics which go into site considerations from target market area, neighborhood, community, tax incentives and land development costs to name a few. One of the barriers to a viable financial proforma can be the cost of the land itself. It’s usually desired that the target site be flat, clean and free of existing structures. Equally as often, a site with those attributes isn't available in the target area or neighborhood. Rather than seeking out a site with a derelict building or one that an owner has already decided to sell, there may be an opportunity hiding in plain sight. Aging libraries may present the opportunities developers have been looking for.

Similar Metrics Between Libraries + Senior Living Facilities

For decades libraries have provided a valuable public service and are usually central to a vibrant neighborhood. They are often located near a downtown or other retail hub of the community. Sites for libraries were selected using the same metrics now sought for senior living, including a wide market area and centrally located with easy access. Library locations remain ideal for public gatherings and community engagement including continuing education classes as well as other activities tailored to the senior cohort. Whether located near the homes of seniors or their families, it doesn't take much imagination to see how these valuable pieces of property would be the perfect location for a new senior living development.

The Opportunity to Convert Existing Libraries

Multifamily apartment developers and some municipalities have already begun to see the value proposition for conversion of existing libraries to senior living and mixed-use developments. There are different ways this opportunity can develop, but the drivers tend to be the same. Existing stand-alone libraries are generally non-revenue generating properties for a municipality. A senior living mixed-use development with a library would begin to generate tax revenue as well as create community activity. One way this could be accomplished is if a municipality would be willing to sell the property to a developer for a minimum amount of money in exchange for an agreement where the public library would own a portion of the building that they could then build out for their own use. A library may also prefer to be tenant rather than owning and maintaining the building and agree to a long-term lease for the space in exchange for the land. In either case both parties come out ahead. The senior living developer would obtain prime real estate for a fraction of the cost and potentially a very reliable tenant, while the library gets a brand-new space programmed to fit their current needs for a fraction of the cost. The municipality also gains much needed tax revenue from a previously tax-free property. It’s a win/win opportunity for everyone.

The Programming for Connected Libraries + Senior Living

A library connected to a senior living community provides great programmatic opportunities between the residents and the community at large. Libraries are a landmark of a neighborhood and community with daytime and evening programming centered around continuing education and public gathering. Libraries also serve as a center for community engagement, adult day services, youth programs and a variety of civic events. All these activities would be enhanced by collaboration with the programming of a senior living community. Libraries are destinations for many older adults volunteering at their local library for sales events, continuing education and intergenerational programming. This destination creates a public presence to a senior living community that may otherwise not exist. For those who would live in the senior living community, reducing the barriers to volunteer opportunities by removing the burden of travel is a win/win for everyone. The potential for overlap and interaction between these various cohorts leads to endless possibilities. The programming of a library is also what makes it a great neighbor to a senior living community; quiet during off hours, active and engaged during the day. 

Other Possibilities for Senior Living Sites

While programmatically a different fit, there are other civic and cultural buildings which may prove to be equally as mutually financially beneficial to a developer and municipality. Public museums for example may provide a similar cost sharing structure or long-term tenant agreement. Community centers, public office buildings or municipally owned parking lots may also fit the location metrics and proforma. Whatever the case may be, finding these opportunities and conceptualizing a masterplan requires a creative and forward-thinking design team that fully understands the common goals of municipalities and developers.

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Dan Schindhelm, AIA
Project Manager

Dan is a Project Manager for EUA in the Living Environments Studio in the Madison office. His role allows him to take part in a collaborative way, working with the Living Studio to schedule, budget and design requirements. Dan enjoys taking part in outdoor activities with his wife and two young children.