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April 7, 2006

Greenfield apartments for deaf seniors model for others

From: - Charlotte,NC,USA - Apr 7, 2006

Developer works with other communities interested in concept

The Business Journal of Milwaukee - April 7, 2006
by Rosland Briggs Gammon

The developer of a Greenfield affordable residential community for seniors who are deaf, hard of hearing or blind and deaf is hoping to expand the concept in Wisconsin and nationwide.

Water Tower View Apartments, 3983 S. Prairie Hill Lane, opened in September 2005 for residents aged 55 and older. It is believed to be the first such complex in the state.

"Word's getting out," said Judy Leiterman, asset manager for Cardinal Capital Management Inc., Milwaukee, the real estate developer and leasing agent. "It will be interesting to see how many others will be able to pull it off."

Water Tower View looks like most residential homes for seniors: It has common areas, railed hallways, large showers instead of tubs and a beauty salon.

But to cater to its 50 residents, it also has visual communication aids. They include blinking lights to alert residents when doorbells and phones ring, and when visitors are at the main entrance; videophone wiring; and a system in the community room that allows hard of hearing residents to amplify their hearing aids, said Carol Comp, resident manager.

Those and other components represented about $300,000 of Water Tower View's $5 million price tag.

Cardinal and Southeast Wisconsin Deaf Senior Citizens, which helped with financing for Water Tower View and pays for some of its programs, are sharing the concept with deaf organizations in Madison and other parts of the state, said Katie Voss, housing consultant for Cardinal Capital.

Arizona, Florida looking
Voss, who is deaf, also is working with the Arizona Deaf Senior Citizen Coalition and the Florida Association for the Deaf to create similar housing in Phoenix, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Christopher Wagner, president of the Florida Association for the Deaf, said he learned of the Milwaukee project a year ago while talking to his friend, John Dickinson, the architect who designed Water Tower View. The Florida group plans to open two sites with at least 80 units each within three years, he said.

Cardinal "has provided support to our association, and played a large role in getting the ball moving on the long-awaited project," Wagner, who is deaf, said in an e-mail.

Water Tower View is a three-story, 50,000-square-foot building with 43 apartments. Its residents have to earn less than 60 percent of the county median annual income, which was $38,100 in 1999, according to U.S. Census data. The one- and two-bedroom apartment rents range from $590 a month to $805.

To finance Water Tower View, the group received $50,000 from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for a market study and down payment for the land, Leiterman said. The group also got $3.6 million in tax credits through the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority. Those tax credits were sold to The Richman Group Inc., a Greenwich, Conn.-based equity investor, which provided about $2.9 million to construct the building.

In designing the building, Dickinson, who's also deaf, focused on open floor plans and different colored carpet borders on each floor to aid residents with visual impairments.

Wall colors also factored into the design, Voss said. White or brightly colored walls and busy wallpaper patterns are distracting in sign language, she said.

"Deaf people are very visual and want to be better able to see who's in a room," Voss said. "People like to see what's going on in an environment."

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