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Senior living facility concept plan changed, approved in Cottage Grove

The latest design for Summerhill Crossing, an eldercare facility planned for the northwest corner of Hinton Avenue and 70th Street. Submitted illustration

As plans move forward for the $9 million, multi-unit eldercare facility, tentatively dubbed Summerhill Crossing, Mike Rygh, project applicant and owner of Custom One Homes, is being forced to re-evaluate the building's design.

Concerns were raised at three recent meetings regarding the design of the facility, which was originally proposed to be an L-shape with a one-story memory care wing alongside Hinton Avenue and a three-story independent and dependent wing parallel to 70th Street. Last week, the Cottage Grove City Council echoed the concerns of the Planning Commission and neighboring citizens and said a more unified design was desired.

"If you can make it where the two wings are both two levels and a three-level (section) in the middle, then I'm sold," Mayor Myron Bailey said.

Rygh unveiled new plans for the 66-unit facility during the council's recent meeting which proposed making both wings two stories.

"We have the ability to eliminate the massing and spread it out without negatively impacting the footprint," Ward Isaacson of Pope Architects said.

However, Isaacson added, there is a challenge to building over memory care units because they are smaller but "we've done it before."

The council briefly discussed the possibility of a U-shaped design, but Tom Optaz, director of real estate development for Ecumen, said it would decrease resident privacy and eliminate acceptable sightlines.

"We aren't creating a facilities, we are creating their home," Opatz said. "We want to maximize the views and we don't want it to look or feel like a nursing home."

With the new design, Isaacson said there may be fewer units which could affect the financial aspect of the project but he said their hope it to meet the market demand.

"It is challenging stacking above memory care units because they are smaller," he said. "But, it does give us flexibility to convert one or the other in the future."

The council also approved the rezoning application Rygh requested. The plat was originally zoned for commercial use per the planned unit development but because an elderly housing facility is requested, the lot must be rezoned to reflect a residential classification.

The new designs will once again be brought before the planning commission later this month and must be approved by the city council before construction can begin, which is slated for next spring.

Construction on the multi-unit facility is anticipated to take a year and once completed will employ around 30 to 35 full- and part-time employees. Summerhill Crossing will provide residents with flexible month-to-month rental options but will not be a skilled nursing facility.

A cafe and small restaurant are also planned as part of the development.