Officials break ground on new senior apartments in Maple Heights

As the Maple Heights population ages, many residents are looking for new living options other than their single-family homes. In response, the city broke ground on Thursday, Aug. 25 on a new 50,800-square-foot, 53-unit apartment building designed specifically for seniors.

The building at Thomas Street and Hazelwood Avenue is due to be completed by fall of 2023. Designed by Ohio City-based Hiti, DiFrancesco and Siebold Architecture and Interior Design (HD+S), the building will have a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, a community room with kitchenette and fireplace for resident events, a fitness room, and a patio overlooking the woods and wetlands.

Operated by Jennings, which specializes in housing for adults over age 55, the new apartments will rent at below market rates, says Jennings chief marketing officer Lisa Brazytis.

She says the yet-to-be-named building suits the needs of the Maple Heights community as many seniors look for living options that require less upkeep yet keep them close to friends and family.

“Jennings is a nonprofit offering the whole continuum for independent living,” she says. “We are experienced serving older adults with many types of income—all the way to long term care, home care, and hospice—and this is just a great opportunity for us to keep serving the community.”

Maple Heights planning and development director Joe Duffy says city officials are excited to finally get the project started, which has been in the planning stages since 2018.  

“There’s been a lot of work to get it to this point—working with all of our partners—so we’re excited to get to the groundbreaking,” he says.

The 10-acre plot of undeveloped land was initially secured from the Maple Heights Land Bank for the development of a large factory, says Duffy, but last year developers learned a large portion of the land was wetlands. PIRHL is now developing the land for the apartment complex.

“The site design did change several times as we learned more about the topography and wetlands present on the site,” says Graham Welling, PIRHL development project manager. “A large part of the tract is classified as wetlands, and our project is preserving these wetlands by locating the building on the high ground—minimizing impacts to the wetlands to the greatest extent possible.”  

The remaining property will be retained by the city and unlikely to be developed in the future, Welling says.

<span class="content-image-text">Thomas Street and Hazelwood Avenue Senior Apartments rendering</span>Thomas Street and Hazelwood Avenue Senior Apartments renderingDuffy says the city’s aging housing stock—built mostly in the post-World War II era—is not ideal maintenance for seniors. “A lot of residents in the community have realized, if you’re not able to maintain the status of a single-family house, there is no alternative really in place [in Maple Heights],” he says, adding that the city has seen a “pretty extensive loss of our senior population.”

At the same time, Brazytis says Maple Heights mayor Annette Blackwell has worked hard to accommodate the city’s senior population while also working to attract a younger population to the area.

“Mayor Blackwell is such a champion for seniors,” Brazytis says. “She’s proactively supportive of the needs in the community. She fights for people to remain in the community, and for their rights to services.”

The new apartment complex will offer access to transportation services and meals through the city’s senior center, as well as access to the food pantry on Broadway Avenue.

Brazytis says the new apartments are just one way to serve the long-term Maple Heights residents, yet keep them in the city, while also attracting a younger population base to fill the existing housing stock.

“This opens things up for younger people to move in,” she says. “It’s a wonderful way to maintain the housing structure, [The seniors] stay in the community, but we also bring new folks to the community.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.