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Senior housing, retail area to open
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A mixed-use senior housing development with some retail shops is coming to one of the last large vacant tracts off U.S. Highway 278 in Covington.

Loganville-based Diversified Development Co. owns the 14.66-acre, heavily-wooded tract that runs between U.S. 278 and Turner Lake Road and backs up to the Food Depot shopping center. It is hoping to place five to six retail shops and as many as 142 senior living units on the land.

Construction on the project will likely start within six months, said Danny Herrmann, owner of Diversified Development. He said his company is talking to interested retailers, but declined to give specific names or business types.

Hermann presented the plans to the Covington City Council Monday, when he requested rezoning of part of the property; the council unanimously voted to rezone the property from corridor residential to corridor mixed use. Prior to the vote, the parcel had split zoning.

Senior Planner Scott Gaither said the original site plan had called for multi-family housing with commercial property fronting both U.S. 278 and Turner Lake Road.

However, Herrmann said studies showed the Covington market is in need of more senior housing, and the planned development will be what’s called a continuing care community, offering multiple housing options including independent living, memory care and assisted living.

Hermann said his company is currently working with a senior housing company on final plans but said tentative plans call for 32 assisted-living units, 20 units for memory care – housing for people with Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss conditions – and 50 to 90 units for independent living. Hermann said the most recent market study indicated a bigger need, so the development will lean toward 90 independent units.

He said Benton House of Covington and Merryvale Assisted Living both have high occupancy rates and said the memory care housing in particular will likely have a waiting list as soon as it opens.

In addition to a growing population of seniors, growing employment and business bases also led Herrmann to determine the time was right for the development.

“When looking at one of these (communities), the seniors often get some assistance from their children, and you’re hoping there is going to be some good, quality growth coming for some years (to support that),” Herrmann said.

The close proximity of the Newton County Senior Services center, which is located across Turner Lake Road in the Turner Lake Complex, was also a deciding factor, he said.

The Turner Lake Road entrance to the development will line up with the secondary, one-way entrance into Turner Lake Park, and Herrmann said there are plans to build a golf cart path down the road to the existing path that leads into the park.

The retail and senior housing components will also be tied together.

“We always wanted to do something with the property, because it’s a good location with two grocery stores nearby, but it was just finding the right use for it,” said Herrmann, who said his company has owned the land for seven years. “We feel we’ve found a fit for it.”

Herrmann said he was excited about the city and chamber’s plan to hire a retail recruiter as that could help in the search to find retail clients.

The property will either be sold to the companies that locate on the land or be kept by Diversified Development, Herrmann said.