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Medford housing plan has rehab emphasis

A $28 million village known as Generations could take shape in east Medford in the next two years, providing housing that would pair senior mentors with young families trying to put their lives back together after overcoming substance abuse problems.

The six-acre affordable housing community proposed by OnTrack Inc. on Harbrooke Road just east of North Phoenix Road would have 104,281 square feet that would include 81 dwellings, commercial space and a 5,000-square-foot day-care center.

The design of the village will result in the use of 50 percent less energy than typical buildings by incorporating passive solar designs and solar hot water, as well as photovoltaic panels that will feed electricity back into the grid.

At noon on Dec. 5, the Medford Site Plan and Architectural Commission will review the proposal, which is part of the 1,000-acre Southeast Plan, at the Jackson County Courthouse auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave.

Scott Sinner, who has a consulting company in Medford, said the young residents in the complex will have to show a high level of responsibility and treatment before they can move in and begin caring for their children again.

"This is the next step in trying to get these people into society," he said.

About 20 of the units would house the young families and the rest would include seniors interested in taking a mentor role.

They would help looking after those recovering from addictions, as well as the children who had previously been placed in foster homes.

The seniors would buy into the project, owning a share that could increase in value over time, said Sinner.

Generations would also feature the second roundabout in Medford.

Sinner said a proposed roundabout in the project has received approval from the city. The roundabout would join Harbrooke Road and a proposed extension of Stanford Road and would help slow traffic as it flows through the middle of Generations.

As part of the project, residents could be employed in various occupations for the maintenance of the community, including landscaping, said Sinner.

The community is patterned after Generations of Hope in Rantoul, Ill., a community built on a former air force base that has been featured on television and in newspapers such as the New York Times.

Rita Sullivan, OnTrack's executive director, said she doesn't expect a problem finding seniors.

She visited Generations of Hope and found that while seniors supported that project, they said they would prefer to live on the West Coast and didn't like not building equity while living in the community.

With the economy in a slump, Sullivan said it might not seem like the best time to propose a project like this.

She said much preparation has already gone into the design, and she expects that by the time all the financing is lined up it won't be until 2010 before any construction could take place.

"We all have to believe the economy will come back," she said. "People will need good tax-benefitted projects to invest in."

The project will be designed to help reunite and rebuild families that are still fragile.

"They have credit histories or criminal histories from their drug use that prevent them from getting housing," she said.

Sullivan expects that every two or three years a family will finally be on its feet and move out of the community, making way for a new family.

In addition to the surrogate grandparents, OnTrack will have clinical staff and other training staff on site to support the families.

"It sets a standard for affordable housing in that northeast area," she said.

Sharon Nielson, owner of the Nielson Group LLC, is lining up the financing for the project that will depend on state and federal funding, private money and loans.

Because of the nature of the project, Nielson said she expects it could receive state and federal funding because it could be part of a economic stimulus package.

If all the financing can be arranged, she said construction could begin in the spring of 2010.

She said Generations will require a capital campaign to raise $3 million from private donations from seniors interested in becoming part of the project.

With the investment, she said, "It allows them to build a little bit of equity in the deal.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.