BERLIN — It isn’t “coming soon,” but a plan to develop 98 units of senior housing could be the next big thing at the Berlin Mall.
The first-of-its-kind proposal for Berlin was pitched to a short-handed Select Board this week and, if all goes well, could soon be before the Development Review Board.
Brad Dousevicz, of Dousevicz Inc., said initial design documents for the project, which will include a mix of independent and assisted living units, are complete and should be filed with the town in coming days.
Local approvals will be obtained before Dousevicz applies for a state land-use permit he will need to construct the four-story residential building on one of the undeveloped “out lots” on the mall property.
Dousevicz, whose company has developed more than 500 senior housing units in Vermont, plans to build on two-acre out lot located near the end of the mall’s entrance off Route 62. The lot is located on the south end of the mall, which is owned by Heidenberg Properties Group.
Cabot consultant Michael Rushman, director of marketing and strategic planning for the mall’s out-of-state owner, said the housing project Dousevicz wants to build on the undeveloped knoll overlooking Walmart’s outdoor garden center, is consistent with his client’s evolving vision for the property.
“Our vision is to create a vibrant town center where people of all ages live, work and play in a way that embraces community and celebrates life in central Vermont,” Rushman said. “This senior housing project perfectly fits with this plan.”
The “town center” concept is reflected in the recent work of town planning commissioners.
“This project is right in the ‘sweet spot’ that the Berlin master plan and zoning calls for,” Rushman said, who advocated for the changes on behalf of his client.
“It’s exciting because we’ve talked about a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly town center and this is certainly a big foundational stone for that,” he said of a proposal that would inject a significant residential component to what has historically been a property that is all about retail.
Rushman said the project responds to a statewide need for senior housing, and the location takes advantage of public water, public sewer and public transit, as well as proximity to full-service grocery store at Walmart and the Central Vermont Medical Center, which is located just across Fisher Road from the mall.
“It checks off a lot of boxes for an appropriate site for this kind of use,” he said.
Selectman Pete Kelley said he was intrigued by a project that contemplates construction of a four-story building served by an underground parking area.
“This is a long-term investment for them,” he said of Dousevicz Inc., which has developed and still operates several senior housing projects in Vermont.
The project contemplates three types of living accommodations – two of them licensed and one with specialized care.
Independent living units could be a convenient option for some seniors, while the assisted living component of the project would offer the same benefits in a secure, licensed setting where medication is administered and personal healthcare is coordinated.
A third component of the project would involve licensed “memory housing” specifically designed and staffed for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairment.
Assuming Dousevicz can obtain the necessary regulatory approvals, the project is expected to create significant employment opportunities both during and after construction.
Meanwhile, Rushman said the mall’s owners have “several other irons in the fire” and are still actively courting a restaurant for an out lot located just off Route 62.