Groundbreaking begins expansion of RBJ senior facility


Highlights

Project aims to double the amount of affordable units for senior citizens.

Senior residents living in the center will be moved to the new units while the tower undergoes renovations.

The Austin Geriatric Center began a development and renovation project for its Rebekah Baines Johnson Center on Tuesday, which plans to provide 504 newly renovated affordable housing units for seniors by 2022.

The project will feature a five-story, wraparound building with 250 additional units for seniors and a renovation of the existing 245 units in the center’s 16-story tower.

Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and the granddaughter of Rebekah Baines Johnson, attended the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.

Senior residents living in the center will be relocated to the new units upon completion while the tower undergoes renovations. Residents will have the option to move back into the tower or stay in their units following the renovations.

The project is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Speaking at the ceremony Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler called Austin one of the fastest-growing cities for senior citizens.

“The senior population in our city is a huge asset to us,” Adler said. “The ability for that community to have their potential realized, to have that community be an integral part of what we do, to be able to afford to live in a city that’s becoming increasingly unaffordable to so many people … these kinds of projects and the preservation and protection of all parts of our community is a priority.”

As a nonprofit, the Austin Geriatric Center relies on multiple sources of income to fund the estimated $70 million project.

According to Paul Saldana, vice chairman of the center, the financial strategy will rely on funding from five different sources: a $5 million dollar affordable housing bond from the city; $800,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the federal government; an estimated $1 million from the Lakeshore Planning Unit Development; $7 million dollars from the Housing Tax Credit Program and the sale of 5 to 7 acres of the 17.8 acre plot for commercial development, which is expected to bring in about $15 million.

After exhausting those resources, the Austin Geriatric Center will rely on fundraising to compensate for the multiple-million-dollar gap in funds.

Due to the high demand of affordable housing in Austin, the Austin Geriatric Center has stopped receiving applications for the newly renovated units.

“If I am blessed to make it to heaven,” Luci Baines Johnson said Tuesday, “I hope to say to Daddy, ‘Look! Austin has made your fondest dreams for RBJ to come true — and they have even out-dreamed you.”



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