A row of shovels wait for the ground breaking of The Community Gardens senior housing project as local officals and project organizers mingle before the festivities start Thursday. Bill Lackey/Staff

Construction starts on $9M senior housing in Springfield

200 residents already on wait-list for project at the old Community Hospital site.

A new $9 million housing project for seniors will be unlike anything the city has seen, Springfield leaders said, and with a wait-list of more than 200 people, it’s needed.

Construction started Thursday on the Community Gardens project on the site of the old Community Hospital, 2615 E. High St. The 50-unit senior living community will be the first “pocket neighborhood” in Springfield and will have affordable rents.

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“We’ll have homes facing one another with front porches and walking paths where neighbors can interact and know one another,” said Tina Koumoutsos, executive director of the Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield, which led efforts to get money for the project.

Construction is expected to be completed in a little over a year. A second phase for the lot is planned, she said, that would include 36 additional units.

The unique design of the project is intended to get seniors to socialize, Koumoutsos said.

“It’s really meant to be a place where not only can you have a good place and a safe place to live but a place where you can really thrive … So many of our aging seniors are lonely,” she said.

The architect for the project, Stephen Sharp, said he designed it while keeping in mind where he’d like to live when he retires.

“You don’t want people to feel isolated,” Sharp said, “and so this is a gentle tool to make life really good for the people who want to live here.”

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Gloria Garrison is No. 32 on the wait-list for Community Gardens.

“I just love the area that it’s going to be in and the security,” Garrison said. “I have a garage, two bedrooms.”

She’s excited about the design of the neighborhood as well.

“I love that,” she said, “because I think the older folks need to be together and to enjoy one another and help one another.”

The more than 200 person wait-list shows just how much developments like this one is needed, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said.

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“We could have another one somewhere and there’d be plenty of people to live in it,” he said. “We have a whole lot of folks who need housing and who need housing which makes it easier for them to get the services they need.”

The neighborhood will be next door to a nurse practitioner’s office where the seniors can get medical care, Koumoutsos said.

It was a hard-fought battle to get state tax credits to finance the project, she said. The application was denied last year so the Neighborhood Housing Partnership partnered with other groups, like the Buckeye Hope Community Foundation and NeighborWorks America and applied again. It was rejected again but then the state reconsidered its application and This time it was approved.

“A lot of blood sweat and tears … It’s worth it because we’re here and we made it,” she said.

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