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New group promoting “middle-income” senior housing

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John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

An ad-hoc group of Carbondale-area residents is hoping to convince a developer to build a new, “middle-income” senior housing center in the Carbondale area, as a way of helping senior citizens to stay in the Roaring Fork Valley rather than being forced to move away in their old age.

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A development partner is talking with the group, but a representative told The Sopris Sun this week that the idea is too preliminary to be discussed in any detail, although a potential site is under contract and the company is starting to interview architects for the project.

The representative declined to comment for the record about the project or the development company that is considering it.

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The group has been dubbed the “Senior Coalition to Determine and Address Senior Housing Needs in the Roaring Fork Valley,” although it is known simply as The Coalition among its advocates.

The Coalition got its start two years ago when long-time local resident Chris Chacos, co-founder with his wife, Terri (founders of the Village Smithy restaurant), met with Jo Anne Anderson, when the two were neighbors at the Ranch at Roaring Fork just outside Carbondale.

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Anderson, who has lived in the valley for nine years, said she had spent the previous 45 years living in Arizona and was aware of a number of retirement communities that she felt could be replicated here.

“Really, for seniors who want to stay here, there’s nowhere to downsize,” she said, referring to seniors’ need to shift from life in a family-sized house to more compact quarters, once their children have moved out or their circumstances otherwise have changed.

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Aside from the cultural vacuum created when senior citizens move away, Anderson noted, “These are the people with disposable income,” so their departure can deal a blow to the local economy, as well. She said the goal is to build a housing complex aimed at “middle income” seniors, to fill in a gap between facilities that serve low-income residents and those that are for wealthier seniors.

Anderson said the Coalition had its first meeting about a year and a half ago, in Glenwood Springs, and that a recent meeting in Carbondale, at the Methodist Church, has added to the growing interest in the project.

“It’s exciting times,” said Chacos this week. “It’s a lot of potential on the horizon here.”

And Bill Dunn, chair of the Senior Matters nonprofit organization in Carbondale, said of that organization, “We support it.”

Anderson is a member of Senior Matters, Dunn said. The organization’s mission, according to its web site (www.seniormatters.org) is to “foster diverse educational and social programs for seniors of all ages.”

Dunn called a meeting for Jan. 15 in Carbondale, to bring together local advocates of the project and the development company. But the company representative told The Sopris Sun on Tuesday that while a feasibility study of the concept had just been completed, the meeting itself probably would be postponed to some future date.

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