Posted November 11, 2021
River Falls is expected to gain a new senior living facility at 700 S. Main St., but concern has been expressed about how the development might conflict with nearby student housing.
Construction on The Sycamore of River Falls, which will include 84 units, is planned to begin in November and the facility should be finished by the fall of 2022, according to city officials.
River Falls has a large percentage of student housing. According to a River Falls housing study released in April 2018, “the largest adult cohort by age in River Falls is 20 to 24, totaling an estimated 3,262 people (21.0%).”
Keri Schreiner, the economic development manager for the city of River Falls, said the community needs more housing of different types.
“So a few years ago, the city of River Falls, we did a housing study, and really what it showed was that we were behind in every type of housing: single-family homes, apartments, townhomes, senior living, so over the past years we’ve been working with developers to try and bring those numbers up,” Schreiner said.
One of these age groups that is highlighted in the housing study is those in the 55- to 75-year-old range. The housing study suggested that this age group will grow most in numbers over the next few years.
In response to the housing study, the city began to search for developers for senior living facilities. Frisbie Properties LLC of River Falls, which already owned the property at 700 S. Main St., submitted a proposal.
“The project is called The Sycamore at River Falls and it’s a 84-unit senior and independent living facility that’s going to include assisted living and then memory care,” Schreiner said. “In addition, across Sycamore Street, there’s gonna be four 55-age-plus living patio townhomes.”
The property has seen redevelopment proposals before. In 2019, for example, a developer proposed a 93-unit luxury student housing project, but it ultimately was deemed economically unviable, according to a memorandum to the mayor and city council prepared by City Planner Brandy Howe.
Danny Leahy, a senior at the UW-River Falls, lives in student housing on Sycamore Street. He expressed a mixed reaction about what the senior housing project’s impact might be on the community.
“I think it could be a conflict because there are houses around here that do have large parties, and I feel like with these large parties by the senior living there could be issues with people either vandalizing their property or doing things like that,” he said. “However, I do think that it would make the neighborhood better. It would encourage more of a family-friendly area instead of a college party neighborhood.”
The early stages of the project have already begun, with construction machinery tearing down old houses in the area to make way for the new facility. According to Schreiner, as long as the weather permits, construction should begin in mid-November.