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Plans to build a comprehensive senior center in Burlingame are moving forward, with an important milestone reached this month in the project envisioned as a hub for amenities and services for the Peninsula’s aging population.

The Peninsula Wellness Community, as the project is called, will feature a host of medical services, fitness facilities and community-centric public benefits and programs with a focus on promoting healthy lifestyles and social connections. It will be built on a 6.4-acre site adjacent to the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, and will include 477 homes for seniors, 182 of which will be affordable to those with below average income. 

“It really is an innovative new concept that goes beyond what currently exists in most senior facilities,” Lawrence Cappel, chair of the Peninsula Health Care District board of directors, said. “Our goal has always been to make this a model program and we believe we are well on our way.”

The Peninsula Health Care District, a government body tasked with establishing and maintaining local health care facilities and needs, along with Midpen Housing, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing and developers PMB and Generations, approved an exclusive negotiating agreement this month, a move solidifying the district’s intent to move forward with the developers on the project.

“It was a big day for us, and for them,” Cappel said of the agreement’s approval.

From here, plans for the site will be further crystallized, and construction is expected to begin within three to five years, with another two or more years until opening, Cappel said.

The Wellness Community is part of an effort by the city of Burlingame to be recognized as an age-friendly city by the World Health Organization, a title given to cities that foster safe and enjoyable space and lifestyles for seniors, including suitable outdoor space, public facilities, as well as housing that incorporates assistive elements, easily accessible transportation and events that promote socialization. 

The push comes as members of the baby boomer generation progress further into their senior years, with an expected 148% increase in the number of San Mateo County residents over the age 85 by 2030, according to the district. 

Seniors already within the district, which stretches from San Bruno to Foster City, will be given priority for the housing element, though it is expected approximately 20% of residents will be from elsewhere. Unlike the Trousdale and Sunrise assisted living facilities across the street which can provide help with daily tasks like eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and medications, the new residential units will be for people living independently.

The Wellness Community will offer its benefits to those living on site as well as members of the public. Among educational programs will be those geared toward helping people remain in their own homes as they age, Cappel said. Other offerings may include intergenerational programming incorporating youth from surrounding areas, something shown to be good for healthy aging, he said.

According to plans presented early last year, pricing for housing will be divided into four segments, those at market rate, and affordable units for people earning 80%, 50% and 30% or less of the area median income. One-bedroom affordable units will be $2,200, $1,375 and $825, respectively. Current San Mateo County median yearly income is $104,700 for a one-person household, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms will be offered, split across five five-story buildings and one three- or four-story building for the affordable housing. The housing will comprise just over 500,000 square feet, and the Wellness Community building will be 100,000 square feet. Two parking garages will provide a combined 453 spaces, according to the plans from last year.

Original plans, first introduced in 2017, did not include housing. But amid the worsening housing crisis, a coalition of local leaders, including U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, then state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, expressed that the project should include an affordable housing element. 

A community meeting will be held to gather input on the project in January of next year, according to Cappel.

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