McClellan retirement community planned
by Patrick McCreless
Jan 08, 2014 | 4637 views |  0 comments | 115 115 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Diversified Real Estate Services, a Georgia company, plans to develop five former barracks on Buckner Circle into independent living facilities by 2015. Photo by Trent Penny.
Diversified Real Estate Services, a Georgia company, plans to develop five former barracks on Buckner Circle into independent living facilities by 2015. Photo by Trent Penny.
A Georgia company plans to convert several historic McClellan buildings into homes for retirees, the latest effort to redevelop part of the former fort into a retirement community and stimulate the local economy.

Diversified Real Estate Services plans to develop five former barracks on Buckner Circle into independent living facilities by 2015. The project will be paired with the developer's assisted-living facility already under construction at McClellan. Both projects are part of a larger plan to generate economic growth and job creation by turning part of McClellan into a retirement community, local officials say.

According to a letter Diversified Real Estate sent to the city of Anniston in December, the Buckner Circle development will have 117 units and an estimated 150 residents. A representative of Diversified Real Estate declined to comment Wednesday.

The letter also requested Anniston repave the roads around the five buildings. During the City Council's Monday work session, City Manager Brian Johnson estimated the repaving request would cost the city between $75,000 and $150,000.

"When looking at the population they'll be bringing in and that a lot of those materials will be bought locally, I think it's a small price to pay," Councilman Jay Jenkins said of the request.

Mayor Vaughn Stewart agreed, saying that the project should be supported.

"I love it, it really gets to the overall vision of McClellan," Stewart said.

The council is expected to vote on the request at its Monday meeting.

Robin Scott, executive director of the McClellan Development Authority, which manages development at the former fort, said his organization is in the final stages of selling the buildings and surrounding property to Diversified Real Estate for $2.3 million. Scott said the MDA has been working with the company on the project for several years and wants to redevelop part of McClellan into a retirement community.

"It increases the wealth in the community ... it brings new cash into the area that wasn't there before," Scott said of luring retirees to the area. "Many retirees have larger disposable incomes and don't burden the school systems because their children are all grown."

Diversified Real Estate began renovating a vacant McClellan building in October to turn it into an assisted living facility for retirees. That facility will feature 60 beds and create 26 jobs. An assisted living facility offers moderate care in day-to-day activities, such as help preparing meals. At the Buckner Circle independent living facility, however, tenants will require little to no outside care.

In addition to those projects, McClellan is home to Casey Estates, an independent living facility owned by Georgia-based property management firm Mansermar Inc.

Buckner Circle already contains many private residences. Scott said the retiree facility will not disturb the character of that community.

"It will complement the community perfectly and will increase the market value there," Scott said. "They will maintain the historic character of the buildings; that's part of the deal."

Nick Wilmott, director of corporate development for Sage Management, an Orange Beach-based senior housing management firm that will manage the assisted living facility for Diversified Management, said that project is about a month behind schedule. He said various unforeseen issues with the renovations have slowed work, but the project should be complete by August.

"We've already had a few calls from people interested it taking reservations," Wilmott said. "But we got that by word of mouth ... we'll see things pick up in the next couple of weeks as we start publicizing."

Wilmott said McClellan is conducive to retirement community development.

"It's a beautiful area and has a close proximity to the interstate and it already has a built in infrastructure," Wilmott said. "And for us, from a management standpoint, we looked at the local growth patterns and we feel confident we'll be able to fill beds and apartments."

Wilmott added that the proximity of the Diversified Real Estate's two planned projects will mean retirees will not have to leave their community as they age.

Randy Frost, director of the Area Agency on Aging in Anniston, said Diversified Real Estate's projects are part of a trend in retirement community development referred to as “aging in place.”

"They can start out independent, but as they need higher care, they won't need to leave their community or the surrounding area," Frost said. "A lot of people fear that when they have to progress to higher levels of care, their entire community has to change."

Frost agreed that a significant retirement community at McClellan will benefit the entire area.

"It's definitely an attraction to the area," Frost said. "I think it compliments tourism and it creates nursing and health care jobs."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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