Columbia County commissioners voted unanimously – with District 3 Commissioner Charles Allen abstaining – to approve a revision to the Marshall Square zoning restrictions that limit the number of apartments that can be built on the site.
Those limits led to a $57.5 million lawsuit against the county in 2009, later settled when the county purchased 25 acres of Marshall Square.
Tuesday’s vote will allow Resort Lifestyle Communities, of Lincoln, Neb., to build a 130-unit complex with an expected value of $20 million on an 8.6-acre parcel at the corner of North Belair Road and Ronald Reagan Drive.
One condition of that vote is that, if the facility is ever sold, it can’t be used for anything other than as an apartment complex for residents 55 and older without rezoning, said Columbia County District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen.
The facility is part of an ambitious growth plan for the company, which currently operates nine such facilities in five states and plans to build four to six communities each year, said Josh Thornton, assistant vice president of finance for Resort Lifestyle Communities.
Those communities are self-contained, providing dining and recreational facilities for residents along with an interior “town square” of storefronts providing services to residents who live independently in individual apartments.
“We like to think of our communities as a cruise ship on land, if you will,” Thornton said. “It’s an all-inclusive package that you would associate with the words luxury and resort.”
The three-story facility planned for Marshall Square will have about 165 residents in 130 apartments, with an anticipated average rent of about $3,000 per month, Thornton said. The “all-inclusive” price includes meals, utilities, shuttle transportation and activities.
Some of those activities will take place in the complex’s 150-seat theater, which also will open occasionally for community events, Thornton said.
“One of the biggest challenges and concerns for the senior community today... is they isolate themselves and alienate from social activity when they lose a spouse or loved one,” he said. “One of the things we try to do through our activities ... is to draw them out, to get them involved not only with their fellow residents but with the community.”
The attraction of Marshall Square is its proximity to the Evans Town Center, Thornton said. “One of the things we love about the location is the amenities readily available from a walking perspective,” including the library and Lady Antebellum Pavilion.
Columbia County Planning and Development Division Director Richard Harmon said he expects permitting for the site will be ready in a month or so.
“You’re probably going to see the building coming out of the ground in May,” said Paul Ritchie, the architect for the facility’s contractor, Cameron General Contractors of Lincoln, Neb. Construction is expected to take about 14 months, he added.