Juneau-After nearly two years of research and outreach and a $50,000 market demand study, Senior Citizens Support Services Inc., a local non-profit, has progressed to the next phase of developing an assisted living facility in Juneau.
According to SCSSI Board of Directors President Sioux Douglas, the project has “received tremendous community support, including grant support from CBJ and Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to develop a demand study for senior housing and services.” The demand study—which can be found at https://www.jedc.org/2014-juneau-senior-housing—reports an immediate need for at least 56 beds with a 2022 projection for 117 beds. Considering the aging current population and the baby boomer generation, that number will increase to 327 in 2042.
“We’re pleased that our anecdotal evidence has been legitimized by the demand study,” says Douglas, “so it’s time to take this to the next level.” The second phase is development of a project feasibility study and pro forma, an architectural mock up, and visioning process to find the right operator/developer who will fit into the community.
SCSSI board member MaryAnn Vandecastle, a long-time senior advocate and Chairperson of the Juneau Commission on Aging, points out that the City and Borough of Juneau’s recently released final draft Economic Development Plan recognizes the value of keeping seniors in Juneau. One of the Plan’s primary recommended initiatives, the Building of a Senior Economy, clearly recognizes impacts that seniors have on our community, from keeping their wealth and investments locally, to volunteering, to supporting local services including healthcare, not to mention the incredible value of their perspective on community life.”
With city budgets tight, and the state budget even tighter, getting a multi-million dollar project off the ground will require many partners and creative financing, acknowledges SCSSI Treasurer
Don Gotschall. “Nevertheless, there is a tremendous financial upside to local businesses, city government, local non-profits, and Bartlett Hospital, if we can provide seniors who need assistance with daily living a place to live and continue a high quality of life in Juneau.”
A recent calculation by the Department of Labor indicates that assisted living facilities in Alaska generate one full-time job per bed, each of which will pay $25,000-$30,000/year. If the need in 2022 for 117 beds were to be met by the facility under development, it would generate 117 jobs and about $3 million in wages for direct jobs only.
The Juneau Economic Development plan cites the 2013 annual health expenditures of $92 million for Juneau resident seniors over 65 “Clearly, seniors are an “industry” themselves—one that is cleaner, year-round, and not resource-dependent,” says Vandecastle.
“Recognition of the ‘Silver Tsunami’ or the need for a ‘Senior Economy’ is not enough to build a high-quality residence campus considering the high cost of land in Juneau, not to mention a piece of land with the qualities that seniors need such as flat spaces, access to services, and safety,” concedes James Bibb, local architect and counsel to the project. So, the group is looking to build partnerships with local and state developers, CBJ, foundations, and the public. “We are always on the look-out for a passionate advocate who might own a piece of land that could be donated and advance our project,” says Douglas, who is also a director of the Juneau Community Foundation. “In fact, our local foundation is skilled at creating win-win scenarios for projects of merit and donors desiring a tax deduction!”