The Sunbeam Family Services, an anchor in the Mesta Park Neighborhood before the neighborhood really existed, could be redeveloped into senior multifamily housing and offices under a plan being pursued by Marva Ellard.
Ellard, who developed the historic Sieber Hotel at 1305 N Hudson Ave. into upscale apartments, is under contract to buy the campus from Sunbeam and is set to discuss her plans Thursday night with Mesta Park residents.
The pending sale coincides with construction of a new home for Sunbeam at NW 14 and Classen. Executive Director Ray Bitsche Jr. estimates the nonprofit will move into its new home in October. The group, which provides foster care, counseling and aid to the elderly and low-income families, has been in the five-building campus at 620 NW 21 since 1912.
“We have a contract and Ray is working on due diligence,” Ellard said. “One thing we need is a special exception from the Board of Adjustment. We wanted to talk to Mesta Park to see if they feel comfortable with what we want to do.”
The proposal calls for three 3,100-square-foot, six-bedroom “cottages” to be converted into single-family homes. The main building, built in 1928 after the original wood frame house on the site was destroyed by fire, would be converted into senior multifamily housing.
A football-sized building built in 1964 — a modern-style structure used for offices by Sunbeam — is a bit trickier to figure out, Ellard said.
“The building, what we call the ‘ark,’ is something we don’t have a clear purpose for,” Ellard said. “It’s been an office since it’s been built. We would like to keep it office. But it could become residential.”
The long-term plan, if the sale goes through, may also include new, low-density multifamily housing to be built in adjoining lots owned by Sunbeam.
The deal started with a competition between Ellard and Bitsche in bidding for the future Sunbeam home at NW 14 and Classen.
“We obviously had outgrown the campus we’ve worked from since 1912,” Bitsche said. “We are in five different buildings. We don’t have a bus stop nearby. We are land-locked and cannot expand.”
Working with city planners, the organization set its sights on NW 14 and Classen, where an office complex stood boarded up since 1995. The state, which owned the building, unsuccessfully sought to sell it at auction twice.
When Bitsche and Sunbeam submitted bids during a third sale attempt, he discovered his offer beat Ellard’s by $50,000.
“She said right then and there she wanted to do some senior housing and talked about our campus,” Bitsche said. “I never let go of that idea, we closed on our new property and got a good design with Rees Associates.”
Bitsche said the organization did not list the property for sale, but instead examined two letters of intent to buy the property submitted by two preservationists who live in nearby Heritage Hills. He said the board liked Ellard’s idea the most, but both Bitsche and Ellard want to discuss the project with the neighbors before moving forward.
“The least we could do, given we were there for a century, was to help it be something the neighborhood would embrace,” Bitsche said. “And when I heard it might involve providing housing for seniors, the first thing I thought was it’s not outside the realm of possibility for someone who grew up in the Sunbeam home to return to live in it.”
Ellard believes the Sunbeam campus is ideal for senior housing.
“There are people who have aged in place in their homes. They have homes they can’t or don’t want to maintain anymore. But they want to stay in their community, be close to their church, their friends, and they don’t want to leave their world.”
At a glance
Home is several years in making
Sunbeam Family Services began its quest to build a new home in 2011. Construction of the new $10 million campus at NW 14 and Classen started last year. The new Sunbeam campus will consist of a 5,400-square-foot senior shelter and a 33,400-square-foot main building. Completion is set for October.