by CHRIS ROGERS
Construction began last week on a new, active senior living building that will host 70-plus apartments on Mankato Avenue in Winona.
The new senior living complex will be erected immediately next to Sugar Loaf Senior Living and is owned by the same parent company, St. Cloud-based Trident Development. To house the new building, Trident Development purchased one of the last vacant parcels on Mankato Avenue — previously owned by Winona-based Rivers Hotel — and a portion of land owned by WNB Financial. The St. Cloud firm paid a combined $2.4 million for the land, according to state records.
“We’ve had our eye on this neighboring property for quite a few years and the market was right, so we went ahead and acquired it,” Trident Development Principal Roger Fink said. “It’s a highly visible commercial parcel, and it commands a premium for that,” he added.
Following Fastenal’s purchases of downtown riverfront land for a new office building, Main Square Development’s purchase of the Hardee’s block from the city of Winona, and Gundersen Health System’s acquisition of the former Kmart property, Trident Development’s deal is one of the biggest sales of land for new development in Winona in 2018 and part of a trend of major investments in Winona real estate this year.
The project, dubbed Bluff View Estates, will help meet one of the needs identified in the city’s 2016 housing study: more housing options for aging Baby Boomers who want to stop shoveling snow and raking the lawn, but do not want or need nursing care or other supportive services.
“It’s people who want more of a maintenance-free lifestyle,” Fink said of Bluff View Estates’ target customer. “We like to describe this product as resort-style living. Basically you write one check a month and get all of your housing needs provided with that one check,” he added. That means utilities and some light housekeeping are covered, but Bluff View Estates will not offer the assisted-living services — including 24/7 health care staffing — that its neighbor, Sugar Loaf Senior Living, does.
The city’s housing study found that Winona has an ample number of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, but few in-between options for older adults who want to downsize but do not need all the supportive services that come with assisted living. Sugar Loaf Senior Living staff said they were inundated with inquiries for such options, and Fink hopes the new building will provide it.
“I know there are a number of folks who enjoy living in Winona in the warm weather, but enjoy living someplace else in the cold weather. This would be a perfect solution for that,” he stated. “Residents could leave in the winter and know that their home was secured and taken care of.”
One of the other major real estate developments in Winona in recent years was also targeted toward independent seniors. Rivers Development expanded its Valley Oaks subdivision to accommodate 74 “twin homes,” townhouse duplexes meant to serve downsizing seniors. Earlier this year, three of those new townhouses sold for over $400,000 a piece.
The city’s housing study also found a serious need for non-senior apartments that would be affordable for working-class Winonans and a need for starter homes under $220,000 that first-time home buyers can afford.