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City OKs zone change for 180-unit development near Albuquerque Academy


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A California developer has plans to build a senior living community on a vacant 14-acre site next to the Albuquerque Academy campus. (STEVE SINOVIC/JOURNAL)

A California developer has plans to build a senior living community on a vacant 14-acre site next to the Albuquerque Academy campus, amid “significant” opposition due to concerns about traffic and “loss of views and open space,” according to city planning department documents.

The Albuquerque Environmental Planning Commission has approved a zone change, a site development plan for a subdivision and a site development plan for a building permit for the project near Hoffmantown Church.

The 180-unit Harper Road Senior Living development will be spread over several buildings — with a maximum height of 40 feet —  and will have units for independent living, assisted living and memory care residents.

The applicant is SP Albuquerque LLC, a subsidiary of Senior Resource Group of Solana Beach, Calif. The firm said the proposed facility will incorporate design elements in keeping with the surrounding area, including Hoffmantown Church, the Albuquerque Academy campus and the Cherry Hills neighborhood.

The site slated for development is west of the church’s Mission Park and next to the academy campus, which contains popular walking trails. The facility is expected to have 68 employees on site over the course of three shifts and parking for 225 spaces.

The Cherry Hills Civic Association and property owners within 100 feet of the proposed facility were notified of the company’s application. A meeting on the zoning request last month drew “significant … opposition due to concerns related to loss of views and open space, traffic, spillover parking and building height among others,” reads the notice of decision.

“The development will impact the use of open space by a large Northeast Heights population,” residents Arden and Heather Anderson said in written testimony. “Crossing Harper to access the open space with additional traffic will pose a safety hazard to adults and children who regularly use that open space.”

Resident Ellen Dueweke wrote, “This is not just a vacant lot. People traverse around it and through it for exercise and enjoyment. It is Albuquerque’s ‘Central Park.’ If this large commercial institution is built, we will lose a special place and look back on it with regret.”

Calls to Senior Resource Group and Hoffmantown Church for comment were not immediately returned.

The EPC action means the parcel once zoned for a church now has the proper zoning for a senior living facility. The Harper Road Senior Living application will now be submitted to the city’s Development Review Board, which will ensure the developer follows EPC conditions. Those wishing to appeal must do so by Sept. 29. Appeals would go to the City Council via the land use hearing officer.

The planning staff report says the project will bring additional senior housing and services to the area — as well as employment — within walking and biking distance of existing neighborhoods.

“An appropriate transition has been incorporated in the site design between the Cherry Hills neighborhood and the proposed senior living facility that includes a large setback and landscaped berm,” according to findings from city planners.

Development on the vacant land was envisioned as far back as 2007, when the church entered into talks with a company that also wanted to build a high-end retirement center on the same acreage.  Neighbors also opposed that project, and negotiations eventually fell through because of a slumping economy, according to a 2010 Journal article.

Senior Resource Group has projects in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Oregon and Washington state, according to its website.