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City may buy site to boost senior housing
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The Ceres Redevelopment Agency may purchase land in downtown Ceres to assist in the development of the proposed Victorian Village senior apartment complex.

The Ceres City Council, meeting as the Ceres Redevelopment Agency, met in closed session on Aug. 11 with property owner Cary Pope. The two parcels are on the same block of the newly refurbished Clinton Whitmore Mansion. The main building of Victorian Village is proposed for the northeast corner of Fifth and North streets.

"The city would like to have a senior project at the location," said Mayor Anthony Cannella, who is also chairman of the CRA.

On Aug. 25, the panel met again beind closed doors and according to Cannella have decided to seek a revised appraisal of the property.

Cannella could not reveal much of what occurred in closed session.

"We decided that we may be be acquiring the property and to get a revised appraisal," said Cannella.

A formal decision may come by Sept. 8, said one source.

The property - located within the redevelopment area of Ceres - would be purchased through Ceres Redevelopment Agency housing set aside funds. The move would make it easier for the developer, Stanco, a non-profit affordable housing corporation, to secure funding on the $6.2 million project.

Originally the Popes planned to sell the land to Stancoto build the project. Having the CRA as owners will allow Stanco to more easier get financing and government subsidies for the project.

"Stanco will buy it from the CRA - at least that's the way I envision it," said Dave Meling, executive director of Stanco.

Earlier this year the city granted approval to Victorian Village, a classy-looking 30-unit senior citizens complex near the Clinton Whitmore Mansion. The approval process included a rezoning of the property and approval to split the 2.6-acre parcel into three separate parcels. The Popes plan to keep the mansion available as an event center while Victorian Village develops around it.

The CRA is looking specifically to buy two of the newly created parcels. The first parcel will contain a 20,860-square-foot two-story building comprised of 26 residential units and a parking lot. The second parcel of nearly 12,000 square feet - located northeast of the mansion - will contain a four-unit single-story cottage with five parking spaces.

"All along from the very beginning, Staco expected to use RDA funds," said Pope. Pope said with the CRA as the landowner, Stanco is better able to deal with the various levels of funding.

Meling is confident that funding will be secured and that Victorian Village will be a great addition to downtown.

"We're looking forward to being down in Ceres," he said. "It will be one of the cornerstones for the revitalization of downtown Ceres. The new community center is only a block away so downtown Ceres is on the move and we hope to become part of the process."

"These projects take some time to put together," said Meling. "So (the purchase) gives us some latitude on time."

Meling expects to apply for funding next year with construction occurring in 2010.

"It takes a few layers of funding to subsidize the construction so that the project will pencil at affordable rents."

Victorian Village will strictly be available to low- and very-low-income senior citizens. Seniors will have to fall into two categories: those making 80 percent of the median income; and 20 percent of the units will be set aside for those making 50 percent of median income or less.

"We anticipate that people on pensions and Social Security will be able to afford them," said Meling.

Rents are scheduled to run $437 to $454 per month.