Cary News

New development could help Cary meet growing senior housing need

As 5,000 Cary residents turn 65 years old every year, a proposed 370-unit life care community development could bring the town one step closer to meeting a growing need for senior housing.

Mangum Development LLC, an N.C.-based medical office builder, is seeking to rezone about 21 acres across Kildaire Farm Road from WakeMed Cary Hospital from residential to mixed use. This would allow for the development of the Paraclete Professional Park – a 475,000-square-foot life-care community with 240 independent living units and 130 assisted living units with additional office space. It also could have additional residential units or a 150-room hotel.

“We do feel that this being more mixed and being more walkable, this facility ... is going to be more of a campus-like atmosphere,” said J.W. Shearin, a Cary land planning consultant representing the applicant, at a public hearing in January. “It’s going to have central gardens, fountains. It will have dependent and independent care.”

The project comes at a time when the town has been trying to respond to the need for senior housing.

In early 2015, the Aging Issues Task Force, a group of Cary officials and residents appointed by the town, completed a five-month-long study into how well Cary serves residents who are 65 and older. While the report said the town serves seniors well, it also shows the community may lack adequate housing for the growing population.

The rezoning case first came before the council for a public hearing in June 2015 but returned in January for another hearing after the applicant made changes to the preliminary development plan. The original plan showed an office park, whereas the new plan has more of a mix of uses.

“Last year in June, when we were here for a public hearing, we presented a pretty extensive office and medical park facility supporting the hospital in uses, which was a great, super idea,” Shearin said. “But following that hearing, there was a level of interest that occurred for some alternative support units to mix the site more than what was proposed, but we feel to the better.”

The rezoning case will now go to the town’s planning and zoning board for its recommendation and is expected to return to the council for a vote in March.

“Before it goes to the planning and zoning board, I’d like to say that I liked the original proposal, and I’ll have to be convinced to change my mind,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said.

Weinbrecht said a hospital surrounded by assisted living has a “totally different feel” than a hospital surrounded by medical uses, but he acknowledged there is a need for more senior housing.

Councilman Jack Smith said he was torn, because he also liked the original plan but the senior housing and possible hotel would be a good use of the property and complementary to the adjacent hospital.

“Here I think I’m willing to show some flexibility,” he said. “I’m going to try to keep an open mind.”

But other council members said they’re satisfied with the changes.

“I kind of like the assisted living component myself,” Councilman Don Frantz said. “I think our senior task force, one of the things they identified was we have a lack of those facilities in town, and I see this as a way to, you know, get some more of that. To me, having it close to the medical facilities and the hospital makes a lot of sense.”

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon