Plans move forward to bring new senior housing facility to Cambridge

A new senior housing facility will open for business in Cambridge later this year.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting Feb. 6, the council approved resolutions relating to the financing and development of a new senior housing facility expected to open in October or November.

Finance Director Caroline Moe explained the Walker Methodist Levande Project, a Minnesota nonprofit corporation and organization, is requesting the city issue conduit debt to finance the acquisition and construction of a senior housing and assisted living facility at 2011 Sixth Lane S. in Cambridge, in the area behind Menards.

City Administrator Lynda Woulfe explained conduit debt is where an organization uses the city’s credit rating to administer a debt issuance for a project in the community or another community.

Under the terms of conduit debt issuance, Moe explained, neither the city, nor any other political subdivision thereof, is obligated for the repayment of the bonds or debt.

Moe said the nonprofit is solely responsible for the repayment of the debt even though legally the debt is issued through the city.
“This doesn’t apply to the city’s debt load,” Woulfe said. “It is just using our name and our credit rating. We have done this for several other projects. This will benefit a project in the city of Cambridge, so that’s a great thing.”

Scott Riddle, CEO and president of Walker Methodist, explained the senior housing facility in Cambridge will include 68 units composed of 44 assisted living units and 24 memory care units.

He explained a wide range of services and amenities will be available in the building, including a variety of dining options; social events and outings; weekly housekeeping, laundry and other services; card and game areas; a library; a deli; a salon; a fitness center; and more.

“We did have an independent market study done, and there’s definitely a need for this type of project in the community,” Riddle said. “We hope to open this October or November after having our ground breaking last fall.”

Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson explained in July 2014 the City Council approved resolutions relating to the development of a senior housing project with Summit Development. Since that time, Summit Development has sold the project to Walker Methodist, and city staff has been working with Walker Methodist to see the project through construction and completion.

Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer thanked Walker Methodist for its investment in the community.

“This project will be going next to the East Terrace Cooperative, and it seems like it’ll be a wonderful setting,” Palmer said. “This will really be a wonderful, safe place to live. This will be really nice for our community.”
Riddle explained the name of the facility will be Walker Methodist Levande. He explained “Levande” is the Swedish word for living, and it was selected to honor Cambridge’s Swedish American heritage and because Walker Methodist’s mission is life and all the living that goes with it.

Communications policy, Facebook pages
Woulfe explained the City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance on the use of the city’s name, logo and seal to prevent misuse on social media sites, marketing and advertising. The council embraced this philosophy due to the importance of having an effective public relations and communications program that is officially attributable to the city of Cambridge.

Woulfe presented a draft ordinance based off an ordinance adopted by another city in Florida. She explained the ordinance would include the use of the city name as “City of Cambridge,” “City of Cambridge, MN” or “Cambridge, MN.”

Woulfe mentioned there are four city of Cambridge Facebook sites, but only one is the official city of Cambridge Facebook page.

Council Member Joe Morin said there is a certain Facebook page that uses the city of Cambridge’s name and logo, and the page has damaged the city.

Woulfe explained the ordinance would prohibit the use of the city’s name in the title of the Facebook page.

Council Member Jim Godfrey asked about having an open forum and discussion available on the official city of Cambridge page.

Woulfe noted it is currently on the official city of Cambridge page; however, comments with inappropriate language or incorrect information are deleted. But she said the city does respond directly to a person who posts incorrect information and advises them of the correct information.

Council Member Kersten Barfknecht-Conley said she liked the idea of an ordinance and indicated too many Facebook pages are confusing, but agreed citizens should have an avenue for open dialogue and communication.

Godfrey said he feels the ordinance is “stifling” the freedom of expression and ideas, and the other non-official Cambridge Facebook page has a much freer form of discussion.

“While that may be true, it’s often incorrect information as well,” Woulfe said. “When incorrect information is posted, it’s very damaging. This ordinance is based on an example sent to us by our city attorney, and I feel it’s a good ordinance.”

Godfrey questioned how you can prove something is “damaging,” to the city based on a Facebook comment.

Woulfe explained the city has received comments and questions from developers about what they are reading on the unofficial Facebook page and are concerned with what they are reading.

“I personally know of one business that did not come to the city because of comments they read on that Facebook page,” Morin said.

Following discussion, the council approved a motion to continue the discussion until the Feb. 21 council meeting and to allow time to see if the city’s official city pin can be trademarked or protected. The city’s official logo is already trademarked.

Godfrey indicated during discussions he wanted more time to talk directly with the city attorney about the ordinance, and it was also noted the council wanted to hear comments about the draft ordinance from Council Member Lisa Iverson who had an excused absence from the Feb. 6 meeting.