Developer pitches $54M, 4-story senior development to Hamilton Council

Dominium would build 244-unit affordable housing for senior empty nesters.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Dominium officials made their pitch to Hamilton City Council last week to build a four-story, 244-unit affordable housing complex for senior empty nesters.

The Minnesota-headquartered multifamily developer and management company, which owns and operates hundreds of types of developments across the country, including three Ohio properties, wants to build this complex on Gateway Avenue on two parcels. One parcel is under contract, and they’re seeking to buy a second parcel from Woods of Sycamore HOA.

If the preliminary planned development and rezoning requests are approved later this month by City Council ― which includes five variances ― the roughly $54 million project would proceed to the final planned development stage.

The proposed complex would be complete with amenities, like a clubhouse, fitness center, library, walking trails, a large passive park space along the perimeter of the development, and a public art sculpture garden. The development would also not be seen, except maybe a foot in some areas, by the residents of the Woods of Sycamore to the immediate south of the planned project.

“This is an interesting thing that we’re doing, we’re proposing,” said Dominium spokesperson Sarah Shambrook, adding the proposed plan as “a solution for a few problems.”

To accommodate the needs of the neighboring subdivision, they’re making some concessions that require the five variances, including building it higher than permitted, having a higher density of dwelling units, and having fewer parking spaces. The HOA property Dominium would acquire includes a playground for the Woods of Sycamore. The deal includes the HOA purchasing a third parcel ― residents are concerned that property could be developed and result in additional traffic in the quiet neighborhood ― and Dominium would build a new playground area for the Woods of Sycamore HOA.

The Dominium site would not have access to the subdivision.

Shambrook said they’re seeking this development because there’s a lack of affordable housing for seniors. They’ve constructed hundreds of developments across the country, and while most are affordable housing, they do have a handful of luxury apartments. But there is no difference in quality within their portfolio.

“We don’t think folks should have to live somewhere that’s not up to quality and dignity just because of their income or lack of retirement,” Shambrook said, adding that to make the development work, the variances, notably the 244 units, are needed.

Nearly a quarter of Ohio’s population is 60 years and older, and about 25% of Butler County’s population is 55 and older. Shambrook said many seniors (about 12.5%, or 1 in 8) spend more than half of their income on rent or housing costs, and 20% of those 65 and older are “severely cost-burdened.”

She said this makes it “virtually impossible” for seniors on a fixed income to rent a one-bedroom apartment, many having less than $100 a month for something not rent, and while that’s a “huge, huge cost burden” for people right now, “something like this type of housing can alleviate (that).”

Affordable housing is not equivalent to subsidized housing, though some of their properties are Section 8, that’s not the intent of the Hamilton project. Shambrook said affordable housing is defined at the federal level, and it’s based on the financing program that mandates a tenant’s rent. She said people are still paying their rent, at a reduced rate.

Dominium, which has been around for 50 years, would be the owner-manager of the property, and the deed would have a restriction requiring the affordable housing mandate. The financing of the project, Shambrook said, consists of a portfolio of funding sources: Federal affordable housing 4% tax credit issued by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, private activity bonds issued by the Butler County Finance Authority (formerly the port authority), a conventional construction loan, and Freddie Mac permanent financing.

Hamilton Planning Director Liz Hayden said the 244 dwelling units proposed are 97 more than allowed. Code allows for 11 units per acre, and this plan calls for 18 units per acre. Woods of Sycamore has a density of 3.5 units per acre, and surrounding multifamily units range in density from nine to 12 units per acre.

“It is unusual to see that many variances but sometimes there are numerous variances if our code just hasn’t contemplated something,” Hayden said.

If approved, construction of the 68,000-square-foot building would be $54.75 million and create 350 full-time equivalent construction jobs throughout the 24-month construction period. There would be on-site staff after the project is complete to manage and operate the facility.

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