Responding to a need: Senior housing project breaks ground

It’s been just over a decade since the original “seed” of an idea, but the dream of affordable housing for Colville’s seniors is a large step closer to reality. Eric Ohrtman and Jeff Whitten of the Hudesman House Apartments (HHA) Board of Directors announced at Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce meeting that the project on Colville’s north side recently broke ground. As reported earlier this month (May 8), the necessity of the project was never in question, but the path to obtaining funding was tortuous. It was a collaborative effort between Stevens County, Washington State, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Shalom Ecumenical Center (SEC), and required a “fortuitous” turn to become viable. “They’re going to try to provide as much local [sub-contractor] work as they can,” Rev. Ohrtman said. “But they are also well versed in HUD requirements. If you’re just getting into building a HUD building, the learning curve is rough. These guys have done it.” The primary contractor is Construction Northwest, Inc., based in Coeur d’Alene. “Most of the subs [contractor], as I understand it, are going to be hired from the local area, and paid prevailing wage,” Whitten said. “The ma¬terials will be supplied locally.” In describing the long-term impact on the local economy, Whitten pointed out that the construction, maintenance, and the residents would create jobs, increase the tax base, and increase fee revenue from rent and utilities. “As a result of having those two HUD facilities [Hudesman House and Colville Meadows] side by side, we will have economies of scale in property management,” Whitten explained. “We will be able to utilize maintenance and management services for both facilities, which will save money in the long run. ‘This will be an energy-efficient, modern building.’“In 2008, the State’s Housing Trust Fund required that any facility that utilizes Housing Trust Fund monies to also meet the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard. This will be an energy efficient, modern building. So, over the long haul, over that 50-year plus lifespan, as a function of designing it to meet these codes, the long-term cost of maintaining this building will be reduced as well.”In describing the building, Whitten waxed philosophical: “You’ll see that there’s very few long, flat spaces. These people will not have to live in a block…We wanted to add some architectural features to it, give it some style, some sophistication, so that they can be proud to live there; and live in dignity in their senior years. I believe that Colville Meadows is considered a modulated facility as well. So it kind of gives you an idea if you’ve seen the neighboring building that’s already out there. [Hudesman House] would fit in very well. It would be a nice marriage of these two facilities.” Whiten then explained that all of the units would have “universal access.” This means that doorways will be 36 inches wide and other features can be added easily. “As time goes on, we will retro [fit] the other existing apartments to be ADA,” he pointed out. “So we’re universally accessible right out of the chute.” Whitten pointed out that the common area and office area on the main floor will be ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act accessible].“One apartment will be fully accessible; now for an apartment unit…that means roll-in showers, countertops and tabletops at a certain height, grab bars; those kind of issues.” Whitten described the features of the units. “The apartments will be 520 square feet,” he told his Chamber audience. “They will have major appliances provided--the refrigerator and the stove. We will plumb each apartment for a laundry and a dishwasher, so if a resident has one—or the family can procure one—we’ll be ready to go. There will be a laundry facility in the common area for those residents that don’t have their own.” All units will also be carpeted. “This was a design issue that was passed over a number of times because the original design for the facility was to be a flat slab on grade,” Whitten said. “Well, to do that, with the energy code, we were required to have tile floors. Well, tile floors are cold. Then the thought was throw rugs, or area rugs…then there was concern about tripping issues. So, through some creative design work, we were able to raise the floor and add a small crawl space, so we’re not required to have a concrete slab. Therefore, we can carpet throughout.” “There will be a large common area; it will have a kitchen and dining area so if groups want to get together, or residents want to entertain, that will also be available. And, of course, there will be an intercom and door entrance system. “We will also have the benefit of recently named Service Coordinator, Muriel Meyer [of property management Goodale & Barbieri Company]. Muriel’s job will be to assist residents of our facility, Colville Meadows, Columbia Apartments, and Chewelah Manor, helping those residents with healthcare issues and questions; guiding them in those areas; financial type management.” Residents will have a support network of their own: Meyer will help by finding services, transportation, help with chores, or general support. Partners soughtA flier from Goodale & Barbieri describes her position as “No problem is too big or too petty. Even if you don’t have any problems and would just like someone to converse with—her door is always open.” Ohrtman ended the presentation by explaining that the consortium is looking for partners to help with construction. Specifically, during the design process, the porte cochère (basically a covered driveway at the front entrance) was removed due to funding is¬sues. HHA has already met with local businesses regarding funding and supplies to discover ways to include this building feature. Both Ohrtman and Whitten feel strongly that it’s necessary.