Ellicott City retirement community inches toward construction

George Barbehenn placed his deposit for an apartment at The Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant about a year ago. And while construction has not started on the 50-acre retirement community in Ellicott City, Barbehenn said he's just as excited as he was a year ago.

"I'd move in today if they'd let me," the 76-year-old Elkridge resident said. "The waiting is the hardest part."

The Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant has been accepting deposits from potential residents since 2008, but the economy and poor housing market has delayed the project. Now, with 119 deposits received of the168 required to build, construction for the continuing care retirement community could begin next year.

Miller's Grant, located on Frederick Road next to the county library system's Charles E. Miller Branch and Historical Center, is expected to have 286 residences, including apartments, duplexes, and detached homes when completed.

The first phase of construction will include construction on 215 apartments and 25 homes, while a second phase will bring 35 more apartments and 11 homes, according to Brenda Becker, vice president of marketing and communications for Carroll Lutheran and Miller's Grant.

Miller's Grant must wait until it hits the 168 deposit mark to begin construction because of requirements from the Maryland Department of Aging, Becker said.

There is no timetable for when construction will begin, but Becker said "shovels will be in the ground" 90 days after the 168th deposit is made.

She expects residents will be able to move in 18 months after construction begins.

Miller's Grant has selected two local construction companies to handle the project. Marriottsville-based Harkins Builders will oversee construction of the apartments, common areas, assisted living and health care center.

Williamsburg Homes in Columbia has been chosen to build the detached homes and duplexes.

While Miller's Grant has received just a handful of deposits each month, Becker said those numbers could rise with an accelerated marketing campaign and an improving housing market, allowing seniors more comfort in making a deposit.

"We expect to see quite a bit of activity," she said.

Miller's Grant will be the second continuing care retirement community in Howard County after receiving its approval by the Maryland Department of Aging to promote and receive deposits.

Howard County already has approved a change in zoning on the property to Planned Senior Community (PSC) zoning, but site development plans have yet to be approved.

About 70 percent of the current deposits are from Howard County residents with another eight percent coming from Baltimore County residents, Becker said.

Anne Nix, 78, placed her deposit about a year ago and the 50-year resident of Howard County said remaining in the area was a major reason she chose Miller's Grant.

"It was a great feeling of comfort to me that I feel that I have a place to go," she said.

The nonprofit aspect of Miller's Grant and its planning also attracted Nix to the community.

Miller's Grant is being developed by Corporation Churches, which also manages Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster.

With the financial commitment Corporation Churches has made, Nix said has no reason to believe construction will not begin next year.

"There will be groundbreaking, I truly believe in 2013," she said.

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