New Castle nixes option to buy Kuersten property
NEW CASTLE — Citing a lack of interest form the private sector, Town Council on Tuesday opted to avoid purchasing roughly 22 acres that some had hoped to use as the site for a senior housing development.
The decision closes out, for the time being, a year’s worth of work in evaluating the property and potential uses for the parcel just east of town.
“Council made a good effort,” Tom Baker, town administrator, said Tuesday. “The market just didn’t appear ready yet for this idea.”
The Kuersten family, owners of the property, approached the town more than a year ago with a proposal to sell the land to the town for $800,000 — an attractive price offered, in part, because of the family’s desire to see the parcel host something that would benefit the town, such as a health and wellness campus.
Last summer, the town put down $30,000 in earnest money in exchange for a one-year option to purchase the property, which set in motion a year’s worth of work on the part of town staff and council.
From nearly the start of the process, the town explored the possibility of locating a senior care facility on the land. Along with Augustana Care, a nonprofit senior care facilities developer, the town hired a Boulder firm to conduct a preliminary needs assessment.
That decision came after focus groups were conducted in the community to gauge initial interest.
While the preliminary demand analysis indicated varying levels of demand for unassisted living units, such as patio homes, the demand dropped off as the level of care increased.
The findings came to the dismay of councilors, some of whom questioned the conclusions.
The town pushed forward and hosted a meeting to gather feedback from residents and community leaders. Approximately 60 people attended the meeting in late March, and many voiced support for some form of senior housing, along with other development ideas addressing perceived needs in the community.
Shortly after that meeting, the town drafted a request for conceptual proposals. The request was sent to six senior care developers. Although there was still some hope of using the land for senior housing and care, the request was advertised in a more broad sense, with the goal of finding a private partner to assist the town in creating family supporting jobs.
In the end, only one of the senior care developers responded to the request, and that was on a consultation basis.
To move forward with the purchase, the town needed a private equity partner that could help cover the cost, Baker said. That partner never materialized, which led to council’s decision Tuesday.
However, it was not without effort and money. Baker said the town spent roughly $35,000 including half of the $30,000 — the other $15,000 will be returned to the town under the terms of the purchase option — and thousands of dollars on consulting work and staff time.
“The Town Council regrets that the outcome of all this effort is to cancel the contract,” council wrote in a letter approved Tuesday. “We so much appreciate the Kuersten family’s flexibility in allowing us the time to thoroughly explore our options. Perhaps in the not too distant future the market will be different and an opportunity will arise to create family supporting jobs on this site. If it does, the Town Council will be interested in exploring ways to assist a developer in bringing their vision to fruition.”
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