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Retirement village to go in near school

Local developers are building a new &

36;25 million high-end residential retirement center with a youthful twist.

Veranda Park Retirement Village will be an independent-living community with 141 units, including 28 1,500-square-foot cottages, located on McAndrews Road and Thrasher Lane.

The developers are talking with staff of the Medford Parks and Recreation Department about creating a joint venture with Lone Pine Park, located on the back side of the retirement village next to Lone Pine Elementary School.

The retirement village will be owned by four couples: Mike and Mary Mahar, Randy and Jonelle Jones, Lou and Katherine Mahar and Larry and Ann Horton.

The Hortons own Medford's retirement centers Fountain Plaza and Horton Plaza. With the Mahars they also own Anna Maria Creekside, an upscale retirement community. The developers said prices have not yet been set for Veranda Park, but on many levels the project will be comparable to Anna Maria.

— Merlin McDaniel, design and construction manager with the parks department, said the developers are hoping to create intergenerational activities between schoolchildren and people in the retirement community at the four-acre Lone Pine Park. Among the features being explored are a community garden and stretching stations along a pathway which is designed for people with limited mobility.

McDaniel anticipates the site will be popular with all ages.

The park has a million-dollar view, he said.

Randy Jones said he didn't think there would be a problem finding seniors who want to live next to an elementary school.

If we set it up right, it should be desirable and could create some opportunities for mentoring, said Jones, adding that mentoring would be strictly voluntary.

Don Bruland, director of senior and disability services for Rogue Valley Council of Governments, said population numbers support more senior housing.

Jackson County's senior population has grown nearly twice as fast as the rest of the state, he said.

From 1982 to 2002, the 60-plus age group increased by 62 percent in Jackson County, versus 38 percent statewide.

According to 2002 figures, there are 37,560 people age 60 and older in Jackson County. He said that's about 20 percent of the county's total population, compared to 17 percent statewide.

Bruland said additionally, many of the upscale retirement centers, such as the Rogue Valley Manor, advertise nationwide and pull people in from other areas.

Jones said the vacancy rates are low in those communities, and he believes Veranda Park will fill up quickly.

We feel the timing's right, he said.

It'll be a real nice setting with views, said Mike Mahar, adding that the veranda will have views of Mount Ashland and Wagner Butte.

The developers describe the housing not as assisted living but as luxurious apartment homes for the active retirement set.

This is for healthier seniors, said Mahar.

The main building, with 113 units, will feature a hallway with faux storefronts for amenities such as a theater, a tea room and an ice cream parlor.

Jones said bulldozing has begun and applications will be accepted later this year for the facility. He said the project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2006.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail Retirement village to go in near school "mlanders@mailtribune.com