People Inc. aims to build senior housing in Woodstock

People Inc. will try again to build apartments for senior citizens in Woodstock.

The Abingdon-based organization that builds housing for low-income residents is looking at constructing an 11-unit apartment building similar to a proposed project panned by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors last year.

Bryan Phipps, vice president for development at People Inc., said Thursday that the organization is considering a couple of potential locations, though they are leaning toward a 1.8-acre site near the Food Lion off South Main Street.

“It’s a little bit premature at this point,” Phipps said. “We don’t have any definite plans but we think that we have located a potential site.”

People Inc. is working through the process with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to gain approval for a project site that would allow the organization to move forward, Phipps said. People Inc. expects to submit information about the site to HUD in the next couple of weeks to see if the location is suitable.

“We are confident in looking at the region and from what we’ve heard from some of our community partners that there is a need for it,” Phipps said. “In looking at it, it’s adding 11 units of safe, decent, affordable housing for seniors.

Really, to us, it’s not going to overburden the region by any means,” Phipps added. “The funding’s available and we think that there’s a need in the community so, certainly, as a community development corporation we think it’s an important project.”

The site is within walking distance of shopping and the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Phipps noted.

People Inc. will need to work with the town to obtain necessary permits and approvals. The town zoning regulations allow multi-family structures on the property in question with an approved, special-use permit, Phipps said.

“At this point, the reaction to the proposed project from our funders and from the town has been positive — certainly non-committal but we’re getting good feedback, “ Phipps said.

Town Manager Reid Wodicka said by email Thursday that People Inc. has not submitted any formal proposals, only a conceptual idea for development. As such, the town is not yet directly involved in the process. Mayor Jeremy McCleary said he also had little information on the idea.

“If a proposal comes forward, we would do an extensive review of the proposal and then work to determine whether or not this would benefit our community — just as we would do with any other such proposal that would come before the Town,” McClearly stated in an email.

Last year, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors voted against People Inc.’s request to transfer the vacant lot of the old Woodstock school property to the organization, thus keeping the nonprofit group from moving forward on its proposed project.

Opponents feared such a facility would create more traffic around the site and that, since the project did not include renovating the high school, the historic building would fall into more disrepair. Some opponents of the project also questioned People Inc.’s claims that the town and the overall area need more senior housing opportunities. In order for People Inc. to obtain certain approvals for such projects, the organization must demonstrate through a study that a need for senior and/or low-income housing exists for the area.

“Really, what happened, when the Board of Supervisors made their decision not to transfer the property, located below the Woodstock school there, we started working with HUD on a plan to locate essentially the same building with the same parameters to a different site within the community,” Phipps said.

For the past year, People Inc. has been working on finding a site and conducting its study to see if it’s feasible to build apartments at the preferred location.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com