Two developers, Homes for America and Severn Development, acquired three aging rural properties to form the Cottages and Gardens at Chesapeake for seniors and families in Elkton, Md.

To mix housing reserved for seniors and housing without age restrictions at the same development, the developers needed to convince the Department of Housing and Urban Development that the arrangement is allowable under Fair Housing Act laws. “We committed to operate the properties separately,” says Kathy Ebner, development director for Homes for America. “We have two separate wait lists, two entrances, two signs.”

The Cottages and Gardens includes 98 units, split between one-bedroom cottage-style apartments and one- and two-bedroom garden apartments. The efficiencies of joining three properties together into one development allow for a full-time management and maintenance staff, plus services for families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The one-story cottages are part of the seniors’ portion of the project. Each cottage comes complete with a front door, a back door, and a garden in the front area. “This design makes these apartments much more marketable and attractive,” says Ebner.

Before the renovation, the apartments had been fully occupied, even though they suffered from the plain design common to many older projects built during the “cost-containment era” of rural housing programs, with vinyl siding and not a lot of insulation.

The $12.2 million renovation, completed in December, added ceiling fans, new flooring, fiber cement board siding, and heavy, R-30-rated insulation for the roofs and attics.

“The residents seem quite happy with their new utility bills,” says Ebner.

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