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Santa Maria Council Approves Towbes Group’s Proposal to Develop Senior Apartments

The Towbes Group's proposal to include senior apartments in place of some retail development near Blosser and Battles roads gained approval from the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night. 

The council’s unanimous vote, which followed a recommendation from the Planning Commission, means the developer can formally kick off the process for the required General Plan, Specific Plan and Zone Change amendments.

Westgate Senior Housing would add 189 units on less than half of the 13.3-acre parcel near the southwest corner of the intersection. The remaining land would still be used for retail space once the developer has potential tenants for the 65,300 square feet.

That remaining retail space would still have room for a major store plus several smaller businesses, Community Development Director Larry Appel said.

With recent and current construction, the area will have 2,329 residential units with 71 percent of those already built, Appel said, noting the potential for another 977 units to be added east of Blosser.

Towbes Group consultant Brian Schwartz, a senior planner from Urban Planning Concepts, said the developer had marketed the potential retail space for six years, drawing interest from a chain drugstore that later backed out due to a corporate merger.

“Since then there’s been no other interest,” he said. 

However, senior housing is in demand in the Santa Maria Valley, prompting Towbes to move forward with modifying the plan.

The senior apartments, restricted to those age 62 or older, would be primarily in two large L-shaped buildings, each three stories tall and with elevators. 

Most would be one-bedroom units, approximately 550 square feet, with a few two-bedroom units at 700 square feet. A couple of two-story walk-up buildings are planned in addition to a clubhouse.

The units would be leased at the market rate, while recognizing the limited incomes of senior citizens.

“By design they are smaller units so that helps to keep down the rent as well,” said Craig Minus, Towbes project development manager.

Towbes has similar senior developments in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.

Plans to develop the retail buildings remain paused awaiting potential tenants, but the Towbes representatives said they are hopeful the build-out of the residential areas boosts demand for commercial space.

Appel said the removal of some of the originally planned retail space is offset by other commercial uses now proposed for nearby property on Betteravia Road and a grocery store that since has been added to South Blosser Road. 

“I think we’ve got a good mix and the remaining amount of retail that they’re showing on the site would still be adequate to give them the flexibility to find the types of businesses that would work well for that area,” Appel added.

The council recently rejected another senior housing project proposed near industrial development.

However, Appel said the Westgate proposal is different since the clubhouse and parking would provide adequate distance to avoid conflicts between the different land uses. Additionally it’s common to use apartment complexes as a buffer between commercial areas and single-family homes, he said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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