Newport Trace Senior Community, across Lester Road near Statesboro High School, will consist of 42 limited-rent apartments for people age 55 and up in single-story buildings.
The Gateway Companies, based in Florence and Birmingham, Alabama, are investing about $4.5 million in the project, said Gateway Development Corp. President Thomas Ward.
This is not the original plan that Ward unveiled early in 2014 for this same piece of property. At first, Gateway proposed a low-income family complex, with no age restrictions, that would have included 56 apartments in two- and three-story buildings.
But that plan drew various objections from neighborhood residents. Some complained about the proposed height of the buildings and the traffic the complex might generate.
This debate came to Statesboro City Council in May 2014, and Ward responded by presenting the current plan for ground-level senior housing. All units will have one or two bedrooms.
"Really, just around the corner from it are some (apartments) almost exactly like it," Ward said in a phone interview last week.
The existing complex he referred to has other owners. Newport Trace will be Gateway's first site in Statesboro. But the Gateway Companies own various types of apartment communities, encompassing about 7,000 units, across around the Southeast, from North Carolina to Mississippi.
Ward supplied a photo of Pinewood Village, a Gateway-owned senior community in Pooler, as very similar to what Newport Trace will look like when finished. It will have paved parking areas, but also irrigated green spaces, a picnic area and a gazebo.
The complex will include a clubhouse with a community kitchen, a computer lab, and a laundry facility for any residents who do not have their own washer and drier. All units will be handicap-accessible.
Gateway plans to have the apartments meet the standards of EarthCraft, a third-party efficiency and environmental quality certification program. EarthCraft inspects to see that things from insulation to lighting comply, Ward said.
"So it will have a very low utility bill, which helps a lot because a lot of the elderly are on fixed incomes," he said.
However, being retired is not a requirement.
"People can work and still live there. That's not an issue," Ward said. "But it's a nice place to live; it's a nice, safe environment."
Apartments in privately-built senior housing complexes of this type do not receive an actual rent subsidy. Instead, the government awards the tax incentives in exchange for a promise that rents will be held to rates based on 60 percent, or in some cases 50 percent, of the area's median income.
For Newport Trace, rents in the $350-$400 range for one-bedroom apartments, and $425-$475 for two-bedroom apartments, are expected, Ward said.
‘Senior market growing'
Another concern voiced about the project at City Council last year, including by Mayor Jan Moore, was that Statesboro has an oversupply of rental housing.
But Gateway believes the demand is there, especially on the senior end of the market, according to Ward.
"The senior market is growing faster than any market there is," he said. "People are living longer."
City Council voted to deny Gateway a letter of support in its application for federal tax incentives for the original project and never supplied one for the revised version.
But because the site was already zoned high-density residential, no approval from City Council or the Planning Commission was needed for the project to move forward. Without a city endorsement, Gateway Development obtained the tax incentive for the senior community version of its plan.
For qualifying projects, Gateway applies for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and similar incentives. As explained in a May 27, 2014, Statesboro Herald story, Gateway sells tax credits to banks, insurance companies and other investors to fund its construction projects.
Not all Gateway-owned developments are the tax-incentive type. High-end townhomes on the Alabama coast are one example Ward mentioned.
Gateway Development, which Ward heads, finds land and financing and gets the apartment complexes built. Then another division, Gateway Management, takes over.
Fairway Construction Co., or FWC, a company with offices in Columbia, Mo., and Atlanta, is building Newport Trace under contract with Gateway. The work is still in an early stage.
Ward hopes to see the senior community completed sometime in June.
"It's all weather-related you know," he said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.