VICTORIA – Construction of a unique integrated residential facility that will combine seniors and independent adults with developmental disabilities is scheduled to begin this month in Victoria.
The $18 million Bethesda Cornerstone Village Victoria, at 1501 82nd St., will consist of a total of 15 apartments in four one-story townhouses, and 37 units in a three-story apartment building on the 4.33-acre site.
Demolition of four vacant Bethesda intermediate care facility buildings on that site began this week. Completion of the new development project is anticipated by July 2020.
“Cornerstone Village will be a first of its kind in the U.S.,” said Mike Thirtle, president and CEO of Bethesda, a faith-based organization that provides homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It will be a place where people of all abilities live, socialize and even worship together,” he added. “We could not be more excited about the potential Cornerstone Village has to enhance the lives of people of Victoria.”
Heather Sexton, who lives across from the development site, is cautiously optimistic about the project.
“I think it’s good; a good opportunity to have a place for people who need assisted living to come, so we’re OK with it,” she said, adding that she is “a bit concerned” about the additional traffic.
“You try to balance the peaceful Victoria living with the need for housing for everyone, so you take the good with the bad,” Sexton added. “Time will tell.”
Bethesda’s Thomas Campbell, vice president of real estate development, and Monica Schmidt, regional director, met with neighbors and other interested parties about the proposal.
“Tom and I held several neighbors meetings and city meetings, and neighbors had the types of questions you would expect; parking, noise; and we were really able to reassure them about those concerns,” Schmidt said.
“We’ve been in that community for over 40 years,” she added. “Homes in that community opened in 1971, so we’ve had a presence in that community and been a good neighbor there for a long time.”
Schmidt said the design of the complex, with the apartment building at the back of the property and appropriate landscaping, “is going to fit very nicely in the neighborhood.”
The facility is inclusive in many ways, according to Campbell. “Inclusive, meaning we are integrating persons with intellectual developmental disabilities with an adult age population of 55 and older. Everyone who lives there has to have the ability to live there on their own.”
“This is a very amazing opportunity for people with disabilities who are often struggling to find housing and places to live, and what is so key to this project is the true community integration; where the community will come to the community center for events,” Schmidt said.
Up to 25 percent of units will serve people with a disability and 20 percent of the project involves affordable housing.
Mayor Tom Funk commends Bethesda’s work, but was not in favor of the city creating a TIF district for Bethesda’s development project.
“The question isn’t whether they are a great organization, the question is whether the city council should divert $2.8 million to support their housing project,” said Funk, who in July voted against the motion approving the TIF assistance agreement. It was approved by a 3-2 vote.
“The bottom line is I don’t believe the taxpayers of Victoria should pay to support a housing project, regardless of who the developer is,” Funk added. “This is a commercial-like development project with up to 20 percent subsidized housing.
“The total cost over 26 years, when you take the $1.3 million in infrastructure support and add the interest, it rounds out to about $2.8 million,” Funk said, adding that those funds could be better used on other city projects.
According to the agreement, Bethesda will pay $30,000 a year, beginning in the second year, in taxes that will be divided between the city, county and school district. None of those entities currently receive tax revenue on that property. Records indicate the value of the development upon completion will be about $7 million.
The complex will include a community center, workout center and various programming “to get the community integrated,” Campbell said. “There will be cooking classes and other activities where people with disabilities interact with the general community” all designed to “enhance the quality of life. We’re excited about it.”