Gilpin County Senior Living shares proposed facility plans

seniorlivingwinterartsfestGroup seeks to raise $1.7 million to kick start construction

by Patty Unruh

Gilpin County draws folks who have always dreamed of mountain living. Some try it and can’t hack the long winters and the distance to work and shopping. Others settle in and stay – and stay. The beautiful surroundings and friendly community resonate with them, and they intend to make Gilpin County their life-long home.

However, when people reach their senior years, they often find a disparity between dreams and reality. Their ideal home has become too much to keep up, physically and financially.

“If only there was affordable, low-maintenance housing in Gilpin County where we could live independently and stay in the community we love,” they say.

Gilpin County Senior Living (GCSL), a non-profit made up of local volunteers formed in 2013, has heard this plea and plans to construct a facility for senior living. Its board members are Sharon Perea, President; Rob Sawyer, Vice President; Ardetta Robertson, Secretary; Craig Holmes, Treasurer; and directors Steve Boulter, Joe Marr, Jeanne Nicholson, and Lynn Pollitt.

At its second annual lasagna dinner, silent auction, and talent show fundraiser held on November 12 at Gilpin County School, the board members distributed information packets to attendees that unveiled prospective plans.

GCSL is attempting to raise $1.7 million to construct “the first-ever senior housing in our county,” its literature states. According to a report cited in GCSL’s materials, there are over 1,000 seniors living in Gilpin County. “Dory Hill Senior Residences” will have 16 units as a first phase, potentially with an expansion to follow some years down the road.

$1.7 million is a lot of money for a small group to raise. Its members are conducting a capital campaign to come up with the funds needed. A capital campaign is an intensive fund-raising effort designed to raise a specified sum of money to meet the needs of an organization – in this case, the funds for a senior facility.

GCSL is seeking foundation, corporate, and individual philanthropic donations. In looking for grants, GCSL members found that, unfortunately, most grant organizations will not give to a startup. Looking for options, members recently attended a conference to meet numerous foundations that provide funding to non-profit organizations. They learned of several funding resources and are in the process of working with them.

Perea reports that in 2016 the group has managed to raise over $7,000 through the Gilpin County Flea Market, the Gilpin County Fair, the recent dinner, auction, and talent show, and the Winter Arts Fair at the Gilpin Community Center. She also said that $8,725 was raised from private donors and foundations. Numerous in-kind donations (items for the silent auction, free printing, free supplies for events, etc., and countless hours of work from volunteers have also helped the group this year. Nicholson also advised the Weekly Register-Call in a July 2015 interview that the group had raised $15,000 to that point. Funds comparable to those raised in 2016 were also raised at events in 2015.

The Gilpin County Commissioners have offered to provide a minimum cost 100-year lease on county-owned property and to provide water at a reasonable rate. GCSL has selected a tentative building location site at the northwest corner of the Gilpin Community Center campus on Norton Drive in mid-county, across from the fair arena next to the Gilpin Public Health building.

Nicholson, a former Gilpin County Commissioner, advised, “No lease has been signed. As soon as that happens, the location will be finalized. Right now, we just have a goodwill handshake between us and the Commissioners.”

A floor plan provided by GCSL shows that the facility will have a total square footage of 13,800. This includes seven two-bedroom homes at 850 square feet, seven one-bedroom homes at 750 square feet, and two one-bedroom homes at 450 square feet.

“Seniors will not pay more than 30 percent of their annual income or the competitive going rate for a rental,” GCSL’s materials say.

GCSL released estimated development cost figures for the project. Proposed construction costs are $1.697 million, which amounts to a cost per unit of $99,824, or $123 per square foot.

GCSL’s budget also shows that once the complex is completed and people are living in the facility, expenses are projected to be $193,250, or just over $12,000 per unit. The estimated costs include administrative expenses, manager’s salaries and benefits, utilities and trash removal, repairs and maintenance, and other expenses such as insurance.

First-year income is expected to be about $198,000 from rent and fund raising, with a net operating income after expenses of about $5,600. Since GCSL is a non-profit, Perea said any net income received would be put back into a fund for future improvements, maintenance, and construction.

There will be a manager for the property, but at this time, GCSL has no idea who it will be. Perea noted, “The position includes on-site living quarters. The person will be responsible for the many jobs required as manager and will present a variety of job opportunities for qualified local residents.”

In 2010, the Commissioners hired Economic and Planning Systems, Inc. to conduct a Gilpin County Housing Needs Assessment. The assessment recommended a first phase of development of 15 to 30 units, then expanding to 50 units in an estimated ten years. About a third of the households in the county were surveyed for that report.

GCSL’s materials highlight trends in the aging population. The total Gilpin population is 5,500, and the senior population is proportionately one of the highest in Colorado, and recent census data projects 3.3 percent growth annually, GCSL notes.

A forecast on the aging population, compiled by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) in July 2015, shows that Gilpin County seniors (people 60+ years old) are the highest percentage of our total county population, when compared to surrounding counties. According to the forecast, there were about 1,400 seniors living in Gilpin County as of July 2015, or about 18 percent of the total population “in the AAA region.” This compares with 337 in 1990 (about 13 percent) and a projected senior population of 1,700 by the year 2020 (20 percent). The forecast predicts that by the year 2040, there will be nearly 2,000 seniors living in Gilpin County, nearly 25 percent of Gilpin’s total population.

In contrast, Clear Creek County’s senior population last year was about 14 percent, while Jefferson County’s was around 4 percent. Senior population is on the rise in all counties surveyed for the report: Gilpin, Clear Creek, Jefferson, Broomfield, Douglas, Adams, Arapahoe, and Denver.

The DRCOG report also showed a 2009 median household income for Gilpin residents aged 65 and older to be a little over $21,000, the smallest of the eight counties surveyed, and compared with $55,000 for Gilpin’s general population. Clear Creek seniors came in at $35,000, with its general population making $62,000. Jefferson County senior residents’ income was $44,000; its general population earned $65,000. Douglas County residents had the highest incomes: $63,000 for seniors and $99,000 for their general population.

A 2015 Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults in Gilpin County notes, “One quarter of respondents experienced at least minor problems with having enough money to meet daily expenses or to pay their property taxes.”

For more information, visit and contact any listed board member.

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