Lake Norman & Mooresville

Retiree residence planned

Residents can give their input on a proposed retirement community on Peninsula Drive in Davidson at charrettes - planning sessions where residents help decide what proposed developments should or should not include - today and tomorrow.

Hawthorn Development, a Washington state-based company, wants to build a 120-unit community for seniors on a wooded 4.25-acre plot off Interstate 77 Exit 30.

"The intention is to provide housing for folks in their 80s who are in good health and are living there by choice, not because of any particular medical need," said Dan Roach, project architect with Lenity Group, an Oregon-based company working with Hawthorn.

Lenity will represent Hawthorn when the company asks the town to approve its project.

There will not be doctors on staff and the development will not provide medical services to residents, according to Roach. The level of care for this development would fall somewhere between an assisted living facility and senior apartments.

Meals would be served three times daily in a common area to encourage residents to mingle, said Roach. Bedrooms would come in studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans.

Most of the residents would be single females, and about 20 percent likely would be couples, he said.

"We don't want to sequester seniors off in the corner," said Roach. "That's why this site is perfect for us. It has great visibility, access to downtown is pretty easy, and we're on this little peninsula that pushes right out into the water so we'll get great views from it and to it."

Hawthorn Development is not new to North Carolina and has more than 30 years of experience in developing retirement communities. Hawthorn has another retirement residence under construction in Southern Pines and two completed in Greensboro and Salisbury. It also has developments in all of the lower 48 states, said Roach.

In fact, housing facilities for seniors is a growing business in the United States, where more than 7,000 people will turn 65 every day in 2011.

"The market's only going to increase," Roach said. "The truth of the matter is, the industry is not building fast enough to serve the demographics that will need these services."

The company plans to make the residences affordable for retirees making $25,000-plus a year, said Roach. Rent would be month to month. He expects the total cost of the project to be about $12 million.

Still, Roach said, much of the details regarding the property will be decided only after the charrette process, and he doesn't expect construction to begin until 2012.

"The process is quite lengthy," he said. "That's what this charrette process is supposed to yield. ... The town doesn't want developers showing up with a design and saying, 'Here's what we're going to do, do you like it?'"

Roach anticipates residents will voice concerns about traffic, noise and the effect on real estate values at the charrettes.

Stan Dyl, who owns a business on Peninsula Drive, said he hasn't heard too much buzz about the new residence and doesn't expect problems for the developer.

"As a property owner, I feel comfortable that the town isn't going to let something go in there that wouldn't fit," he said. "This area is already a mix of commercial and residential. I don't have any reservations about it."

This is not the first time a development has been planned for the site off Lake Cornelius near Davidson Gateway Drive. In April 2007, the town approved a six-story luxury condominium that would have included 60 units. But developers Chris and Ron Kennerly later pulled out of the project, named The Pinnacle, citing the poor economy.

"Residents want to make sure that we don't get this thing half built and walk away because we ran out of money," said Roach. "But Hawthorn has a lot of horsepower and they have the financial will to see this project through."