Digging starts on assisted living and memory care project

After a $3.2-million land-sale closing, an assisted living facility planned on Old Quarry Road left the drawings-on-paper stage last week and progressed to men in hard hats and big machines at work, digging in the earth.

It is the latest of several developments underway on the 45-acre former Schlumberger property, which the town bought for $6 million in 2011 and has sold and leased off, recovering the bulk of close to $8 million in total costs.

An 86-unit assisted living and memory care facility to be called Atria Ridgefield is planned at 55 Old Quarry Road, just behind the Treetops Condominiums. The project is being done by Formation Development Group, based in Alpharetta, Ga., in collaboration with Atria Senior Living of Louisville, Ky., which will operate the facility.

“Atria Senior Living was founded in 1996 and operates 190 senior living communities across the country, including three in Fairfield County and eight in Connecticut,” said Mark Maberry, executive vice president of Formation Development Group. “This will be the fifth project we have done with Atria as the operator.”

Records filed in town hall on Nov. 13 show the developers paid $3,200,000 to Steve Zemo’s Old Quarry Road LLC for the four-acre site, which carried an approval for the assisted living project granted by the Planning and Zoning Commission last May.

“Our building will accommodate 98 seniors, as some of our units will be shared by couples or others,” Maberry said of the 86-unit project. “Our building will be two stories at Old Quarry, stepping down to three stories at the rear of the site where it slopes off. Our building will be approximately 72,000 square feet.

“We will offer a variety of unit types, including private suites, one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom apartments. Some will have private terraces,” he said. “Our amenity spaces will include a restaurant, café, theater, fitness center, art studio, and salon.”

Formation Development Group started site clearing work last Wednesday, Nov. 15. Maberry said the developers hope to have construction completed and residents moving in by the summer of 2019.

“Atria will open a pre-leasing center in fall of 2018, at which time rates will be available,” Maberry said. “Our building will be a rental senior living, not a buy-in.

“We’re excited to be coming to Ridgefield,” Maberry said. “It’s a beautiful town with a vibrant downtown. There are limited senior living options in Ridgefield and the surrounding towns.  We’re confident that local seniors and their families will appreciate the quality of our building design, hospitality and customer service.”

Zemo’s purchase

The four acres sold to Formation Development Group were part of a five-acre parcel Zemo bought from the town. He is developing the remaining one acre with a project that will have storage facilities on the ground floor and apartments above. Zemo said last week that he expects that project will be done in the fall of 2018.

Zemo paid the town $1.25 million for the five acres in 2014, before being elected to his second stint on the Board of Selectmen. He was the lone bidder to respond to the town’s sought proposals for the property, which it had acquired in 2011 as part of the $6-million 45-acre Schlumberger purchase. Zemo’s acquisition came with a clause requiring that the town be given a chance to buy the property back if it went on the market again, and the selectmen voted 3-to-1 in June 2016 not to repurchase the development site.

Zemo was back on the board then, but recused himself from the selectmen’s discussion and vote.

The dissenting vote was Selectwoman Barbara Manners. “I’ve always felt land is such an incredibly precious resource,” she said at the time.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said then that he saw no reason to buy the land back.

“The intended use is memory care, which is a low traffic generator,” he said.

Schlumberger numbers

Town purchase of the Schlumberger property was originally approved by voters in 2011 — a $6-million sales price for a total of 45 acres, and another $1 million for environmental cleanup, demolition of buildings, and other costs.

In addition to the $1,250,000 sale of five acres to Zemo, the town sold off 10 acres fronting on Sunset Lane — after the selectmen got it rezoned for multifamily use — for $4,300,000. The buyer, Charter Group Partners, is now developing townhouses and coach homes there.

In July, the selectmen considered — but rejected —  Charter Group’s offer to buy another one acre to add to its development. At the time, Controller Kevin Redmond calculated the town’s costs for the Schlumberger purchase at about $7,751,000, including expenses associated with the environmental cleanup, which he said “proved more costly than first anticipated.”

Redmond said the town’s offsetting proceeds from the Schlumberger purchase included the two sales — Charter Group Partners’ $4,300,000 purchase of 10 acres and Zemo’s $1,250,000 purchase of five acres — plus a $385,000 state grant toward the environmental cleanup costs and $145,000 in insurance proceeds from water damage in the Philip Johnson building on the site, after the town took possession.

Income from the two land sales — totaling $5,500,000 — plus the $385,000 state grant and $145,000 from insurance, give the town $6,080,000 in offsets to subtract from the $7,751,000 in outlays for the Schlumberger property — leaving about $1,671,000 in unrecovered costs.

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