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Large Senior Housing Project Planned

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Rendering of Spruce Place senior housing proposal courtesy of District 5 Environmental Commission.

Are you, a family member, or a friend ready to downsize from a house, condo, or apartment into an independent living situation where assisted living will also be available? If you answered yes, there may soon be a new senior housing option to look at, one that could be open by the spring or summer of 2021.

A Vermont developer is currently awaiting a state Act 250 permit so it can build a 98-unit, four-story senior housing project called Spruce Place on a two-acre lot on the southwest side of Walmart in Berlin that will include apartments for independent living, assisted living, and memory care.

Local permits have already been issued by the town of Berlin, which is welcoming the project as part of its desire to have a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly town center in the area of Berlin that includes the Berlin Mall.

The senior housing project will be within walking distance of the supermarket portion of Walmart and a short drive from Shaw’s. The Central Vermont Medical Center is located on the other side of the mall property, across Fisher Road.

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Spruce Place developer Brad Dousevicz said that the final Act 250 hearing on October 7 “went well,” and that he expects the District 5 Environmental Commission will soon either approve the project, with or without conditions, or ask for more information.

If approval comes soon enough, Dousevicz will begin construction before the end of the year, with a projected 15- to 18-month construction timeline before Spruce Place will be ready for occupancy.

According to Act 250 filings, the $2.5 million project (not including land costs) will include underground parking for 76 cars. There will be another 22 outdoor parking spaces in front of the building for visitors and others, and a sidewalk leading to the mall.

The unit types will vary by floor. The first floor will include a dining room and 18 memory care units, which Dousevicz thinks will fill quickly. The second floor will have 30 assisted living units, and the third and fourth floors will include 50 independent living units.

Most of the units in the project will be one-bedroom apartments, but there will also be some studios, according to Dousevicz. A typical independent one-bedroom unit would have around 640 square feet of living space. Many other spaces in the building will be open for use by residents, including pubs, a fitness center, an arts and crafts room, storage areas, a library, and a meeting room.

Dousevicz is a part-owner of Dousevicz, Inc. a family-owned and operated development, real estate, and construction firm located in Essex. It has built townhome and single-family home neighborhoods, senior housing, high-rise condominiums, and commercial properties.

Through subsidiaries such as Spruce Place LLC, the company has built and operates several other independent living senior housing complexes in Vermont, including Williston Place, Eagle Crest and Falcon Manor, all in Williston, and Hawks Nest in St. Albans. The company has built one senior housing project—Mansfield Place, in Essex—with both assisted living and memory care.

Dousevicz said Spruce Place will need to hire 30 to 40 people, which could be challenging given the low local unemployment rate, but he said they have done it before in Vermont. “We pay higher than similar facilities and offer good benefits,” he said.

The developer is still working out rental rates for the housing units. He said the company expects to begin marketing the project when it is about halfway through construction.

Dousevicz noted one major difference compared with some other senior housing projects in the state is that his company builds, manages, and operates the projects themselves. Senior housing projects in Vermont that are owned or managed by large national firms are sometimes sold to new owners or change operator contracts, he said.

“We are a locally owned family business started by my father 30 years ago and we plan to continue to own and operate the senior housing projects we have built,” he said.