After a previous real estate effort was put on hold, families with loved ones at 17th and Madison’s Gaffney House know this time it is different. Families are beginning the process of searching for new homes for their grandparents, parents, brothers, and sisters after being informed the small-scale assisted living facility for residents living with dementia is being closed as part of a plan to sell off the valuable property.
“My dad is there. I’m a wreck,” one family member who contacted CHS about the notice said. “This place is a savior for a dozen and a half people.”
Dave Budd, executive director of Full Life Care which has operated the facility since it opened in 2004, confirmed the notices have been given to residents and family members as part of legal requirements as the nonprofit prepares to close down the facility and its parent Transforming Age readies the property to again hit the real estate market.
In 2016, the property was listed for sale for $3.6 million but a deal was never finalized and the facility remained open. Across the street from Trader Joes and Central Co-op, the 1906-built house will likely be heading to the Landmark Preservation Board for review before any new development takes place. “This is one of south Capitol Hill’s most significant homes, both architecturally and historically,” a City of Seattle report on the historic property reads. “It is located in an area where most of the homes similar in scale and design have been demolished, leaving it as the only reminder of the neighborhood’s former character.”
The four-story, 8,394 square foot house “presents an investor or user with an exclusive and unique opportunity to acquire and/or occupy an extraordinary property at the crest of Madison Avenue within Seattle’s Capitol Hill Submarket,” the marketing material for the real estate listing read in 2016.
More than a fifth of neighborhood residents in this area of Capitol Hill are 60 or older and demand for senior living on Capitol Hill is growing. When Aegis opened its 125-resident facility at 22nd and E Madison in 2016, a company spokesperson told CHS many of the residents were choosing to live on Capitol Hill so they can keep shopping at the same stores, and attending the same churches or synagogues. A Capitol Hill Housing project being planned at 14th and Union, meanwhile, will create affordable LGBTQ-focused senior housing.
Since the previous Gaffney House sales process began to rumble, Seattle’s real estate and development market has reached even higher peaks. The financial situation around this type of facility, however, is as tough as ever. “We have been losing money on this business for many years,” Budd told CHS, saying the facility has lost more than $100,000 a year. “We kept it open out of a sense of mission.”
In a letter announcing the closure process, Budd cites the “financial losses” and says Full Life “has explored many different options” to keep Gaffney House open “but it has just become impossible to operate this small-scale assisted living home without losing money.”
Budd says Full Life intends to “find new homes for the Gaffney House residents” by the end of July.
It’s possible, the executive director says, that another provider could choose to purchase Gaffney House when it hits the open market but Budd says the economics make such an outcome very unlikely. The market for dementia services may be growing, he says, but the need is increasing, too.
“The availability may not be keeping pace with the need,” Budd said.
UPDATE 5/9/2018: The property has been listed and, again, has a $3.6M price tag.
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