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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Work to begin on senior rental units

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Franciscan Vistas Ewa will offer a range of care services and amenities for low-income seniors. This is an artist's rendering of the project's 5,000-square-foot community center.

St. Francis Healthcare System

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St. Francis Healthcare System is ready to begin construction this month on the $40 million first phase of a long-delayed senior rental housing project at 'Ewa Villages.

The project, called Franciscan Vistas Ewa, initially was scheduled to break ground seven years ago, but delays arose surrounding the purchase of land, high costs that forced a major change in the housing plan and a lengthy effort to secure financing.

Pam Witty-Oakland, chief administrator of St. Francis Residential Care Community, said a decade-old vision by the Sisters of St. Francis to better integrate living and health care for seniors in Hawai'i is finally being realized.

"It's very exciting to see what they envisioned so long ago become a reality," Witty-Oakland said. "It's a new ministry for them."

The first phase will comprise 149 rental apartments for low-income seniors 62 or older. All units will be available to seniors earning no more than 60 percent of Honolulu's median annual income, or $45,660 for a family of two.

Several units also will be available for seniors earning no more than 30 percent of the median income.

Average monthly rent is expected to be $750 for the one- and two-bedroom units with 530 square feet to 750 square feet.

A 5,000-square-foot community center also is part of phase one.

The first units are projected to be finished in December, with the remainder completed by mid-2011.

Prudential Locations has been retained to manage the project, though marketing the units won't begin until late summer.

Franciscan Vistas Ewa will offer a range of care services including case management, transportation, meal preparation, chore services and advance life planning.

A second phase, which comprises 71 clustered single-family homes and 72 townhomes to be sold fee-simple at market prices to the general public, is still on hold because buyer demand is less certain in this recovering real estate market.

Financing for the second phase, which does not have a cost estimate yet, also would need to be arranged.

Initially, the project unveiled in 2002 called for 300 senior rentals to be built on 23 acres the nonprofit had arranged to buy from the city. Construction was expected to begin in mid-2003.

There were some difficulties completing the purchase, which was achieved in 2003 with help from a federal grant and the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Later, design plans changed, in part because of rising construction costs. Instead of 300 senior rentals, about half the units were to be sold as leasehold homes with preference to St. Francis Healthcare employees. The home sales were devised to provide proceeds that would help support the senior rentals. Construction was expected to begin in 2007, but obtaining financing dragged out the timetable.

Financing now includes private lenders, investors, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Hawai'i Housing Finance and Development Corp. Local development firm Stanford Carr Development acted as a consultant.

About 150 construction-related jobs will be created by the project.

"We have been able to reach this important milestone the start of construction because of the collaboration from the city and county, the state and our real estate, design and construction partners," said Sister Agnelle Ching, St. Francis Healthcare System CEO.