Switzer Senior Villas development coming to Merriam

Switzer Senior Villas project leader Dolph Woodman (left) with WoodCo Inc., and Matt Schlict, civil engineer with Engineering Solutions.

A new senior housing development is in the works in Merriam.

Switzer Senior Villas is a proposed senior multi-family housing project on the southeast corner of West 71st Street and Switzer Road, the site of the former West Antioch Elementary School which closed in 2003. Once complete, it will have five five-plex buildings featuring 25 two-bedroom units and 20 one-bedroom units as well as a clubhouse building.

Here’s a look at the architectural rendering:

The developer, WoodCo Inc., and property owner, The Boyer Company, are leading the housing project, which is for senior residents age 55 and older. WoodCo. Is planning to purchase the property from The Boyer Company, which will lease the units.

The Merriam council on Monday voted 7-0 to approve the planning commission’s recommendation in favor of the preliminary development plan. The project must receive final development approval from city staff.

Chris Evans Hands, who lives near the project, said she looks forward to the senior development being complete.

WoodCo Inc. also applied for the state of Kansas’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit. If the project receives the state tax credit, the senior housing will have affordable and market rate rental units. If the project does not receive the tax credit, WoodCo has indicated the project will still move forward with the units being leased at market rate.

Most of the Merriam council’s concerns centered around affordable housing via the tax credit as well as safety for the senior residents, especially in the event of severe weather. The developers plan to build basement space in the clubhouse but it doesn’t meet federal standards. There will be an evacuation plan on site. Community Development Director Bryan Dyer said city code doesn’t require the complex to install safe rooms that meet federal standards.

City staff cited Johnson County and Merriam’s aging population as a driving factor in the need for housing that specifically accommodates this age group.

“If you look at all the demographics, the Baby Boomer generation is obviously aging out and getting older, so there is a need for this type of project, not only in Merriam but in northeast Johnson County,” Dyer said.

The senior development will allow small pets kept indoors. And the campus will have sidewalks on both sides of the streets and connectivity to the city’s trail network.

A developer started to build nine two-story apartment buildings with 49 units back in 2005 but went bankrupt before construction was completed.

And in 2013, the Boyer Company began making plans to build a one-story 29,000 square foot convalescent home and/or congregate care facility but changed plans before construction began, according to the city memo.

The preliminary development plan indicates landscaping around the senior housing campus will act as a buffer between the housing and the adjacent Edelweiss residential development. Councilmember Chris Evans Hands, who lives in Edelweiss, said she looks forward to “a pristine development.”

The developers said they hope to break ground by the beginning of January 2020 and finish the project by the end of the year.