Plans to add new assisted living facilities in Kent, Streetsboro move forward

As America’s baby boomer generation ages, assisted living facilities are in increasing demand.

Kent and Streetsboro are each gaining facilities: Kent, on South Water Street, and Streetsboro, at Market Square Drive and Route 43.

Kent’s Planning Commission on April 23 approved a conditional zoning certificate and site plan for a two-tiered facility at 1541 S. Water St. Because the property formerly housed a church, the property’s zoning land use classification, but not the zoning designation itself, needed to be changed from “religious institution” to “assisted living facility,” Community Development Director Bridget Susel said.

The front part of the property is zoned High Density Multi Family Commercial, but the part behind the vacant church building is zoned Medium Density Residential. The city’s zoning code allows assisted living facilities as a conditionally permitted use in both zoning districts.

Portage Health Network, which has owned the property since 2018, plans to build 38 single-bedroom “independent living villas” on the western part of the land, nearest to South Water Street. PHN plans 14 one-bedroom villas, and 24 more with one bedroom and a den. Each 680- to 1,000-square-foot villa, or unit, will feature a front porch, a rear patio and a single-car garage. Parking will also be available along the drive.

The units, which will line both sides of a drive providing access from South Water Street to the assisted living facility, are meant for independent living for people 55 years of age and older, according to PHN’s proposal.

Behind the independent-living units, the company plans a 72-bed assisted living facility. Parking for the assisted living facility will be on the west, south and east sides of that building.

PHN markets its facility as a “continuing care community” that allows residents to age in place. In keeping with that concept, residents in the villas may prepare their own meals or may contract with PHN to get their meals at the dining hall in the assisted living facility.

The property is surrounded by residential neighborhoods to the north and east and by commercial uses to the south and west. The installation will border the backyards of homes on Ivan Drive, a field and the north side of a fast food restaurant that faces South Water Street.

About 40 residents attended the Planning Commission’s April 23 meeting, many of them voicing opposition to PHN’s proposal. In a 3-2 vote, Kent’s Planning Commission approved the conditional use permit and site plan; the project will now cycle through the city’s building and engineering departments.

Streetsboro’s newest facility will front Market Square Drive, with two entry drives, one from Market Square Drive and one from Route 43. To keep traffic from having to cross as many as four lanes of traffic, access to and from Route 43 will be right-turn only.
LTC Realty VI plans to build a 71,755-square foot, single-story skilled nursing home at Market Square Drive and Route 43. The facility will include 44 beds designated for long-term care residents and 55 rooms designated for shorter rehabilitation stays.

Mayor Glenn Broska said the $21 million investment, which the city’s Planning Commission approved subject to conditions on April 9, will create 120 to 140 jobs and will generate an additional $100,000 to $120,000 in income tax revenues.

The company also plans to extend a waterline to connect with one at the end of Delaware Trail, which Broska said would improve water quality for area residents. A retention pond will control onsite stormwater and will also catch water that flows through the now-vacant property.

All trees that had to be cut down for the project have already been removed, and the company’s landscaping plan lists more than 100 trees that will be replanted.

Among other conditions, the planning commission asked the developer to include sidewalks along Market Square Drive and Route 43, that all dead or damaged plantings be replaced “in perpetuity,” that adequate landscape screening be provided for a neighboring residential property on Route 43 and adjacent to Market Square Drive and that lighting does not glare onto the residential property.

Other existing assisted living facilities in Streetsboro include The Gardens at Liberty Park, an assisted living and memory care facility on Greentree Parkway. The Arbors at Streetsboro on Maplewood Drive offers long-term skilled nursing care and short-term rehabilitation services and can serve up to 24 people.

In Kent, The Gables of KentRidge on Sunnybrook Road is a retirement community that offers assisted living and memory care units. Nearby, Maple Brook at Golden Pond bills itself as an affordable, independent senior independent living community. Kent Healthcare Center on Fairchild Avenue offers skilled nursing and rehabilitation services.

Stow-Glen, a large nursing, assisted and independent living facility on Route 59 in Stow closed in 2021. A press release the facility issued cited financial difficulties due to the pandemic, including costs associated with mandated Covid-related procedures, a “dramatically” decreased population, operating budget and cash flow. The facility had been in existence for 37 years.

According to the National Health Care Association, the U.S. now has 30,600 assisted living facilities serving nearly 1.2 million people. The Congressional Research Service in 2018 tallied 31,400 facilities serving 918,700 people, meaning that in less than a decade, fewer facilities are now serving more people. However, as the baby boomer generation ages, the number of facilities and beds is only expected to increase in the next two decades.

Regardless of how many facilities may be planned in a community, if zoning allows them, a city cannot stonewall individual proposals without being sued, Streetsboro Economic Development Director Patrick O’Malia said. Reasoning that enough is enough, Streetsboro did recently impose a general moratorium on additional hotels and car washes.

Referencing the slew of Streetsboro hotels that were built to accommodate tourists at the now defunct SeaWorld and Geauga Lake amusement parks, he said, “There was a point in Streetsboro’s history, 20 years ago, when it made sense to have a lot of hotels. Now those things aren’t there, but I’m still stuck with those hotels.”

In general, the hotels that were performing well at the outset continue to be successful, and vice-versa, he said, adding that he expects well-run and well-staffed senior facilities to follow suit.

It will be up to future generations of civil servants to determine what to do with the facilities should demand decrease, he said.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.