Brethren retirement homes project is put on hold


A lack of sales has stalled plans for the Brethren Retirement Community, a $3 million condominium complex proposed for New Windsor.

After nearly five years of planning and about $65,000 in pre-construction expenses, the project is "on hold indefinitely," said D. Miller Davis, planning committee member and executive director for center operations at the Brethren Service Center.

"We were not successful in selling the required number of units," Mr. Davis said.

The project was to be built, with town water and sewer service, on 6 acres of the Brethren Center property on Springdale Avenue. The church's planning committee had hoped the homes would attract retirees willing to volunteer in the center's charitable endeavors.

The General Board of the Church of the Brethren had approved the 30-unit condominium complex and agreed to finance it. To protect its investment, the board required sales contracts for 75 percent of the planned units before contractors could break ground. The committee also could not seek outside financing.

"To get 24 customers together within a year was probably impossible," said Mr. Davis.

The committee developed a brochure with detailed floor plans for the condominiums, which ranged in price from $77,000 to $141,000.

It placed ads in denominational magazines and conducted mail and telephone sales and surveys. Although the project generated interest, no more than seven buyers were willing to sign a sales contract on a home they had not seen.

"The sense I got was that you almost have to have a building up and allow buyers to walk through to create any excitement," Mr. Davis said. "People were always positive about the design. If I could have built it, they would have come."

Mr. Davis said he has not scrapped the plans. "We made a decision not to build at this time, but we are not throwing away the plans or the concept," he said.

At another retirement center, also on Springdale Road, 22 of the planned 31 units for residents age 55 and older have been sold.

"We are far ahead of what we expected," said David C. Bullock, the developer of Springdale Village, one of the first independent-living communities for Carroll seniors.

Mr. Bullock is building all-brick cottages and duplexes on a 6-acre site in the town. The average price is $130,000.

"I am disappointed the Brethren Center project is on hold," he said. "It was a good concept that I think will eventually take place."

Mr. Bullock agreed with Mr. Davis that buyers don't often nTC purchase a home sight unseen.

Mr. Bullock had a model to show and the first two units nearly completed when he opened his project last year.

Several similar developments are in the planning or development stages in Mount Airy, Eldersburg and Manchester, he said.

"There is room for additional senior housing in the county," he said. "In the future when more and more people reach retirement age, they will want smaller homes with little or no maintenance."

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