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Senior housing project proposed next to historic home
Plans to build a classy-looking 30-unit senior citizens complex near the Clinton Whitmore Mansion have received the blessings of the Ceres Planning Commission. The project's next stop is before the Ceres City Council on April 14.

For years the parcel south of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion at 2732 Fifth Street, has been filled with weeds and overgrown trees. Now its owners are seeking the rezoning of the parcel where Victorian Village is proposed. A Planned Community master plan is also being submitted for city approval.

Cary and Nancy Pope, owners of the Whitmore mansion property are proposing to split the 2.6-acre parcel into three separate parcels ranging in size from 11,925 square feet to 30,789 square feet. The Popes plan on keeping the mansion available as an event center but build senior housing.

"We've been working on this almost ever since we bought the property three years ago," said Cary Pope.

The Popes are selling off part of their property to Stanco, a non-profit affordable housing corporation, is proposing to build the project.

In order to do that, the city has to change the zoning from R-4, or High Density Residential, to P-C, or Planned Community. The project meets the intent of the General Plan designation from Downtown Commercial Residential. It also meets the general plan policy of encouraging infill of vacant lots.

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 will be the Whitmore Mansion lot. The third parcel of nearly 12,000 square feet - located northeast of the mansion - will contain a four-unit single-story cottage with five parking spaces.

Two existing houses on the block will remain.

The project will incorporate exterior building materials, such as horizontal wood siding and roofing, that matches the Whitmore Mansion.

"It's going to be very similar to the mansion," promised Pope.

Planners liked the artist rendering of the project, which was about the fifth version, said Pope.

"We came to the city with various other ideas and they sent us back to the drawing board several times," said Pope. "We're thrilled with it. I wasn't thrilled to have to go back to the drawing board so many times but the end result is something that everyone can be proud of."

Dave Meling of Stanco said he expects construction occurring a year from now if the council gives approval. It will take a while to secure government funding for the $5.6 million project. "It takes a few layers of funding to subsidize the construction so that the project will pencil at affordable rents."

Stanco has always been successful at securing funding, noted Meling. "It's an arduous process."

He anticipates that the units will be available only to seniors in the low- and very-low-income categories.

"We anticipate that people on pensions and Social Security will be able to afford them," said Meling. "They'll be given a rents after utilities allowance."

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

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.

The project will be built "very green," said Meling, with energy efficiency in mind.

Pope said he is proposing a commercial grade kitchen for the 1903 mansion as well as independent restroom facilities.