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Changing Faces: As McHenry County population ages, housing for seniors needed

Demographic shifts over the last 14 years provide clues to what McHenry County is going to look like in the future. We should expect to be older and more diverse. How well are we situated for the gradually changing population?

This is the third part in our five-part Changing Faces series looking at U.S. Census and other data and an examination of how the housing industry, social services, education and local government is adjusting to changing demographics.

Along Algonquin Road, developer Ryan Companies wants to build a 186-unit senior living facility called Clarendale of Algonquin that would have a mixture of independent living, assisted care and memory care units in the early spring, with occupancy ready in summer 2016.

"There is an unmet demand for market-rate rental housing for seniors in the area," according to the Ryan Companies' Clarendale of Algonquin project description.

As the county's population ages and baby boomers retire, a need for more senior living facilities for people who may want to downsize and stay in the area might begin to increase.

Related: More projects around McHenry County look for low-income housing tax credits

"This is the latest new development trend, senior housing," Algonquin Senior Planner Katie Parkhurst said.

In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 8 percent of the county was 65 years old and older. In 2013, the census said the proportion of people older than 65 was 11.6 percent.

Algonquin might be getting more proposals for other senior developments in the near future.

Parkhurst said several inquiries from different developers for parcels around the village have been made, and another developer is getting close to submitting a petition to go through the village's review process.

Ryan Companies Director of Development Dave Erickson said his company has been considering building in Algonquin for some time.

"The population is aging, and the older baby boomers are starting to look into senior living options," Erickson said. "There's a wave of senior housing demand. ... We feel very confident (about) making that investment in Algonquin."

Seniors are looking for housing that is lower maintenance and worry-free, Erickson said.

There have been other senior developments around the county that have opened in recent years.

In 2012, Spectrum Retirement Communities opened the Three Oaks Assisted Living facility in Cary. The Residences of Lake in the Hills Senior Facility was opened in 2012 by DKI Real Estate Investment. In 2013, Gable Point Senior Housing with 59 units opened Crystal Lake.

And more might be on the horizon.

In Spring Grove, a 48-unit senior living facility is under consideration, and Ohio-based developer PIRHL is considering whether to build a 66-unit independent living senior facility in Cary.

Thomas Brantley, a development manager for St. Louis-based Gardner Capital, said the development company is having plans reviewed by Spring Grove officials. If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking is expected to take place in fall 2015 or spring 2016.

Brantley points out there is no senior housing in Spring Grove and very little rental property in the village.

Seniors might want to stay in their communities where they have friends and family but might not want to have a house with two stories, a basement, forced to go up and down stairs and tend to a lawn, Brantley said.

"It's really not wanting to leave their communities where they have lived ... a majority of their lives," Brantley said.

Brantley added that his company also is considering constructing a facility in Crystal Lake. It would be larger, as Gardner Capital tends to build 60- to 80-unit buildings.

"We've had some good conversations with the [city] and development staff in that community," Brantley said.

Cary Village President Mark Kownick said during the town's comprehensive plan process, seniors said they were looking for housing that allowed them to downsize and stay in the community.

"They want to go to the same church, shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants," Kownick said.

Kownick said he would like to see independent living opportunities for seniors, as the village already has an assisted living facility on Three Oaks Road.

"It's something we are looking at," Kownick added.

In recent years, there has been a trend toward rental housing in general.

Doug Martin, McHenry assistant city administrator, said empty nesters, or people in general who are looking to downsize their homes, might look at renting rather than owning.

Younger people might not look to live this far out from Chicago.

"[There's] your younger demographic who won't live in the community because they can't afford a down payment," Martin said.

These factors, along with the housing bubble burst from the past decade, have led to more interest in rental developments rather than owner-occupied single-family homes.

John Houseal is a principal at Houseal Lavingne, a planning firm helping Cary finalize its comprehensive plan.

Part of the comprehensive planning discussion revolved around what kind of housing would go at the Maplewood site, which is listed as multifamily/mixed use in the proposed comprehensive plan.

Houseal said the strongest component of the residential sector is rental units and senior housing.

"The good thing coming out of that is quality of rental is phenomenal right now,” Houseal said. "It's better than some of the owner-occupied stuff."

During the same discussion, Houseal said the housing crash that occurred in 2008-2009 added to the legitimacy of renting.

"Now it’s considered a viable and smart option for people who five or six years would have never considered it,” Houseal said.

In recent years, planned owner-occupied condominium developments in McHenry and Algonquin had to switch to renter-occupied apartment complexes to ensure the projects would be completed.

River Place in McHenry is occupied.

Interior construction of Riverside Plaza in Algonquin took place in 2014, after the building remained unfinished for several years.

As work continues, units are now being shown to potential residents, and units are being leased.

Now more rental developments are being considered in the county.

As part of a potential $250 million development in Fox River Grove, developers Gart Partners are looking to build 300 to 500 apartments in the village's downtown area.

Landover Corporation is considering whether to build 150 to 250 apartments at the vacant Maplewood School site in Cary.

"People are gun-shy," Kownick said. "They want to be free from the burden of owning a home or townhouse."

Kownick said there is a part of the population that is ready to move out of their homes as empty nesters and downsize.

"It can be burdensome to pay property taxes on when you're a senior on a fixed income," Kownick said.

Part 1: What's changing about the population of McHenry County and how are we adjusting to population needs?

Part 2: How have social service agencies been changing delivery models and what needs are they trying to fill?

Part 4: What are local educators doing to give students who aren't native English speakers the best chance to succeed?

Part 5: Are the shifts in ethnic diversity being reflected in local elected offices across McHenry County?

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