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New retirement community in the works for Aspen?

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is hoping to facilitate the development of a 120-unit continuing-care retirement community, or CCRC, in Aspen.

According to AVMF Executive Director Kris Marsh, the nonprofit has been working for years on developing a plan for a “continuum-of-care” facility and has recently narrowed in on few parcels of land on which to build.

Marsh and her team met with the Aspen City Council in executive session Monday night to discuss the proposal and sites in question. Neither Marsh nor city officials would elaborate on the specifics of their discussion, other than to say the dialog will continue.

“The group that came before the council has been working for many years on the creation of a continuum-of-care development for the retirement community,” Marsh said Tuesday. “We have been looking for land for two years, pretty aggressively, and we have found several potential sites that we are hoping we can work with the city and county on securing. This is all about exploration right now.”

Marsh said between 10 and 20 acres of land – “as close to Aspen as possible” – is needed for the proposed development, which would include 60 independent-living apartments, 40 assisted-living apartments and 20 skilled nursing rooms, as well as associated amenities like a dining hall and activity rooms. The facility, which Marsh said would be attractive and state-of-the-art, would partner with other local organizations, such as the senior center and Aspen Valley Hospital, to provide additional services to its residents.

It would not be the first partnership toward the creation of a CCRC; the medical foundation, city of Aspen, Pitkin County and the hospital have each contributed a total of $50,000 in recent years toward several studies to determine the need for senior and retirement housing.

According to Marsh, the studies’ findings have shown the need to be great. Specifically, there are some “1,200 seniors who would, at this point, be interested in this type of property,” she said. Plus, there currently is a substantial wait list for rooms at Whitcomb Terrace, the assisted-living facility next to Aspen Valley Hospital, and even additional assisted living proposed there as part of the hospital’s master plan would not cover the need.

In addition, one study showed that 88 percent of locals want to retire in Aspen, Marsh said.

“They don’t want to move downvalley, or to Arizona, or Timbuktu,” she continued. “Some of these people have been here 30, 40 years or more, and this is their home. They have invested in the community, contributed to the community … their friends and family are here.

“Why should they have to be uprooted to have their needs met as they grow older?”

Marsh views AVMF’s role in answering this need as a sort of facilitator. The organization has been consulting with Pennsylvania-based New Life Management and Development on the concept for the CCRC and believes it is on the right track.

“The concept is outstanding, but the financing is complicated and compelling,” said Marsh, adding that of 2,000 CCRCs across the country, only a handful have failed financially.

According to Marsh, the CCRC ultimately would be locally owned and run. New Life would act as a consultant to the development team; AVMF would act as a sort of “incubator” for the project, as it has been for things like Roaring Fork Hospice and the Aspen homeless shelter.

“This project would really meet a growing need,” Marsh said. “And if we are a community that does, in fact, care about its citizens, this is an important step toward the future.”

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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