BERLIN — The project has a name — “Spruce Place” — and a $2.5 million price tag, but a developer’s plans to break ground on 98 units of senior housing right next door to the Berlin Mall before the end of the year is now in the hands of the District 5 Environmental Commission.
With local approvals in hand, Brad Dousevicz of Dousevicz Inc. recently applied for the state land-use permit he’ll need to construct a four-story “senior living facility” a stone’s throw away from Walmart.
Proposed on an undeveloped “outlot” that is currently a part of the Berlin Mall property, Dousevicz’s plans for Spruce Place are detailed in the newly submitted application for an amendment to the mall’s Act 250 permit.
Those plans contemplate subdividing the 2.15-acre outlot from the 65-acre mall property and constructing a four-story housing complex complete with a subterranean 76-space parking garage. The facility envisioned by Dousevicz would include a mix of independent and assisted living options, as well as a specialized memory care component.
With applications for state stormwater and water supply permits already being processed, Dousevicz said “navigating Act 250” is a key step in a process that started last year when Dousevicz and representatives of the mall’s owner, Heidenberg Properties LLC, pitched the plan to a receptive select board in Berlin.
Since then Dousevicz applied for and obtained a permit for the project from the town’s Development Review Board. That review process took more than three months to complete.
The District 5 commission would have to move just as swiftly if Dousevicz is going to stick to his tentative timeline.
“We plan to start construction in the fall,” he said, acknowledging that assumed the Act 250 process “goes smoothly.”
The Act 250 application contains significant details about a project from its subsurface stormwater collection system to its floor plan.
The floor plan contemplates the first-floor wing closest to Walmart would house the specialized memory care facility that includes 18 of the 98 housing units.
The balance of the ground floor would include kitchen and office areas, as well as separate dining and living room facilities and “pubs” for independent and assisted living residents.
The second floor would be dedicated to assisted living. Plans call for 30 units, 25 one-bedroom apartments and five studios — that would be occupied by residents who don’t need nursing home care, but would benefit from living in a secure, state-licensed environment where medication is administered and personal healthcare coordinated.
The third- and fourth floors would house a combined 50 units of — 39 one-bedroom apartments and 11 studios. They would also house separate amenities for use by those residents. A fitness center, arts and craft room and storage areas are incorporated in the third-floor design and the fourth floor includes a large library and meeting room.
Among Dousevicz’ Vermont developments is Williston Place — an independent living community in Williston that is similar in design to the structure he has proposed for the mall property. That complex doesn’t include and assisted living or memory care component, but does cater to a rapidly growing demographic interested in downsizing and convenience.
Spruce Place would do the same, while also serving those who need a higher level of care in a complex located next to a shopping mall that includes a full service supermarket and just down the road from Central Vermont Medical Center.
The strategic location, coupled with Heidenberg Properties’ interest in creating a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly town center that has been embraced by town officials and incorporated in Berlin’s town plan fueled the alliance with Dousevicz.
It has also sparked a separate conversation with Downstreet Housing and Community Development involving a housing development on the opposite side of the mall’s access road off of Route 62. That project is still in the conceptual phase, but would include a mix of affordable housing and market rate apartments for families, as well as a ground floor childcare facility.
If Downstreet doesn’t encounter and obstacles with respect to its project and Dousevicz obtains an Act 250 permit in time to start construction later this year his enhanced senior living facility would be readying to open just as Downstreet was preparing to break ground.
Downstreet officials say 2021 is the earliest they would start construction and Spruce Place is expected to take 16 to 18 months to build once all the necessary permits are in place.
No hearing date has yet been scheduled by the district commission.