New plan calls for senior home in bluff subdivision

Proposed Prairie’s Edge change comes as developer works to make stalled project financially viable

Plans for the Prairie's Edge subdivision have changed to now include a senior living facility in the development on bluff land on the south side of Port Washington. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

The idea of replacing a commercial building and eight townhouse condominiums in the proposed Prairie’s Edge development on Port Washington’s south side with a 36-bed assisted living and memory care facility  got the nod from the city’s Design Review Board Tuesday.

Adding a senior living facility to the mixed-use development proposed by developer Tony Polston of Black Cap Halcyon “fits with the project,” attorney Lisa Wood told the board.

“The concept has always been to serve multiple generations with Prairie’s Edge,” Wood said. 

Wood told the board that the one-story, 26,624-square-foot building would complement the mix of residential units in the development, noting there is a trend to placing these types of buildings in subdivisions.

“The concept is to put senior living in beautiful areas where people want to live,” she said. “It’s a neighborhood. It’s where seniors want to be.”

The design of the building, Wood said, will meld with the rest of the development.

“If you didn’t know any better, it looks like an apartment complex,” she said. “It is a residential apartment building that happens to have some added services.”

The building would be built on roughly three acres along South Wisconsin Street, but it would face the lake. 

Prairie’s Edge would encompass 35 acres on Port Washington’s south bluff, and Polston has mapped out roughly the southern two-thirds of it. The senior living complex would be on the north side of that area, and Polston told the board he would design and engineer the remaining land to accommodate the facility.

Board members stressed that the design needs to be higher than average.

“This is a flagship location, and it should be a flagship design,” Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said. “I think the bar should be quite elevated.”

Tom Ostrom of Matthews Senior Living, which would operate the facility, agreed, saying, “These aren’t old folks homes like people think. This is luxury living.”

Wood added, “Obviously, it needs to fit with the whole development.”

Board members agreed with the idea of adding a senior living facility to the subdivision, but offered few comments on the design, saying it was not far enough along for that to occur.

“From a  use standpoint, it seem appropriate,” board member Jeremy Hartline said. “There’s clearly a need for it in the community.”

Fire Chief Mark Mitchell, a member of the board, agreed, saying, “I think the concept is a good one.”

The Plan Commission will be asked to weigh in on the question of the use of the land when it meets Thursday, Feb. 20.

Officials have been frustrated by the lack of progress on the Prairie’s Edge development, which they expected would be underway last year, and by the fact Polston, who assured the city he would not need tax incremental financing for the project, unsuccessfully sought TIF funding last year.

A number of aldermen who attended the meeting said they are open to the senior living facility but need more information before they sign on to the idea.

“What I struggle with is it the right use,” Ald. Dan Benning said, adding it is “probably” a good idea. “It may be a good use of the space,” he said, noting that there are a number of commercial buildings elsewhere in the city that are vacant.

“I just wish we were moving on this (subdivision),” he added.

Mayor Marty Becker said he “was more impressed than I thought I would be” by the design, but said he needs to look at the potential value of the senior living facility as compared to the previous plan, a sentiment echoed by Ald. Deb Postl.

Ald. Mike Gasper said he isn’t sure the senior living facility “fits with the spirit of what the city approved” when it sold the Prairie’s Edge land to Polston.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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