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Smart Growth in Action: Senior Housing in Vermont

Vermonters are aging rapidly and by 2030, nearly one-fourth of the state’s residents will be 65 or older. This presents many challenges as the need for senior housing grows at the same time that housing costs are rising. While many seniors wish to age “in-home,” a growing number are transitioning to smaller, more affordable homes that are close to services and public transportation.
One organization, Cathedral Square Corporation, recognizes that smart growth and aging are inextricably linked. Founded in 1979, Cathedral Square owns and manages 24 properties for seniors in four Vermont counties and believes that locating senior housing in strong downtowns close to services and transportation choices is essential. They are the lead organization in the Vermont Aging Collaborative, which brings together nonprofit housing and service providers throughout the state, with the goal of creating an integrated network of long-term care services.

Their first building, a nine-story high-rise that provides assisted and independent living in downtown Burlington, is a great example of livable senior housing. Besides beautiful views of Lake Champlain, residents are close to all essential services in downtown, including Fletcher Allen Health Care. There are similar projects in other downtown communities, such as St. Albans, with similar smart growth benefits.

Formerly a parking lot for a strip mall, Grand Way Commons in South Burlington is now home to Cathedral Square’s offices with three floors of independent senior housing above. Seniors are within walking distance of a supermarket, pharmacy and other businesses.

Future projects include a mixed-use development in Burlington’s New North End. Cathedral Square will partner with the Champlain Housing Trust to develop 100 units of multi-generational housing along with retail and office space.

The waiting list for Cathedral Square’s senior housing is famously miles long. This goes to show that the growth of our downtowns and village centers is not just smart; Vermonters demand it and our seniors require it.