Developer proposes senior housing project

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

A senior housing project is on the drawing board in Elk River.

Blackhawk Woods is an 84-unit one-level rental project that would serve residents ages 55 and older with low and moderate incomes. Plans show 49 one-bedroom and 35 two-bedroom townhomes with attached garages as well as a clubhouse activity center.

Blackhawk Woods is proposed to be located on about nine acres of land in the West Oaks subdivision, located southwest of Highway 10 and Waco Street near the western city limits.

The project is being proposed by Senior 30 Elk River Limited Partnership. Roger Derrick is chief manager.

The development would serve seniors with incomes from $20,000 to $40,000, according to a project narrative from Derrick. Monthly rents for the one-bedroom units would range from $500 to $775 and for the two-bedroom units, $795 to $975.

Derrick is seeking about $1 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF, from the city to make the project feasible. Under TIF, the city could capture the new property taxes generated by the project over a number of years and use them to cover a portion of the site improvement costs associated with the development.

The Elk River City Council discussed the project Oct. 21, but has delayed setting a public hearing on the TIF request.

One of the council’s concerns was that the worksheet used to rate the project to determine its eligibility for TIF was designed for commercial-industrial projects. The council has asked that the Blackhawk Woods development be rerated using a worksheet designed for housing projects.

The council is also wrestling with a larger policy issue of whether TIF should be used for affordable housing and, if so, to what extent.

Council Member Paul Motin had expressed concern about the length of the proposed Blackhawk Woods TIF at around 25 years. He also questioned whether the city should subsidize an affordable housing project to the extent proposed.

Both Motin and Mayor John Dietz view TIF as something better suited for commercial-industrial development, to create jobs and improve tax base.

“I think it (TIF) is only to be used in very special circumstances, and I don’t know whether housing fits into those circumstances,” Dietz said.