The Key West Housing Authority has settled on a lease to build, manage and operate an assisted living facility at Poinciana Plaza on Duck Avenue in Key West. The units will be slotted in among the existing tenants — affordable housing renters and agencies such as Samuel’s House and KOTS. Key West Senior Development LLC proposes to build 56 assisted living units (with 24-assistance available) and 60 independent living units.

Over the past several months, Housing Authority of Key West Executive Director Manuel Castillo and staff have on developing different options that would best suit the needs of the city. Even with all the negotiations, the cost of housing and care will be substantial.

“The term ‘affordable assisted living’ is an oxymoron, there is no such thing,” said Castillo.

According to the non-profit the Assisted Living Federation of America’s website the average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,022 per month. The cost is attributed to meal preparations and nurses as well as housekeeping and many other services.

In Key West, the rents will be based on need and apartment size. The whole project can be constructed in 22 months, according to Jim Nichols. He represents Key West Senior Development LLC, a subsidiary of a Michigan-based company. Nichols said it’s a good fit for the needs of the community.

“I believe public, private partnerships where goals of community are met will be a model for the future. If the housing authority uses its power to build and own the facility, this can be at the price point the city and community wants,” said Nichols.

Key West Senior Development LLC is part of the group called Southwhitehead, LLC, which manages and operates 30 assisted living facilities in Michigan and two in Florida.

Nichols said the group would also install power generators in case electric power is interrupted. There are also plans for an administration building as well as social spaces to include a theater area and a chapel. There will be a large dining area, including outside seating, with a full commercial kitchen serving three meals a day and a dietician on staff. Besides the bus spot nearby, there are also transporation plans for doctors appointments and shopping.

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz thanked Castillo for all the hours he put into finding this solution. He also wondered if Monroe County could partner with the City of Marathon.

“From my understanding the city is pumping a lot of money into Bayshore Manor, which has only 16 beds. Is it possible to join forces with the county?” asked Yaniz, adding he hoped that the partnership could make the service more affordable. Castillo said negotiations have already begun.

“One way to lower the cost is subsidies,” Castillo said.

The next step is to finalize the project with the Housing Authority of Key West and get all the permits. Castillo is hoping to have an agreement with Nichols by the end of the year to present to the commission and get started as quickly as possible.

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