“This is the very first residential senior living project that the Board of Commissioners has approved next to a neighborhood,” Ott said.
Ott said seniors tell him they want to live close to their doctor, dentist and grocery store.
“It’s been really hard up until these guys came along to figure out how to do that without severely impacting the neighborhood,” he said.
Sterling Estates boasts a main, 96,000-square-foot building that holds 90 suites that average 514 square feet, in addition to six cottage duplexes.
The two- and three-bedroom duplexes, intended for more independent and active seniors, rent for an average of $5,800 a month, Steve Sodel of east Cobb, one of the project’s four owners, told the Journal in March. The duplexes will feature their own two-car garages, kitchens with granite countertops, hardwood floors and covered porches with ceiling fans.
The assisted living units in the main building average $4,300 a month. Many rooms will include walk-in closets, with some having their own patio overlooking the development’s courtyard.
The assisted living building will include a nurse’s station and barber and beauty shop with its own nail salon.
Residents of the duplexes will also be able to use many of the features of the assisted living building, including the 5,000-square-foot wellness center.
The wellness area will include an indoor pool, heated to 92 degrees, along with fitness equipment aimed at a senior audience, said Marshall Gill, an owner who will also be the community’s executive director. The machines will include one that assesses a user’s risk of falling and others designed to help them become better able to prevent falls.
“We have services available as they age in place that they can stay here if they need to,” Gill said. “They can be as independent as they want to be or they can have help here in the main residence. The cottages are truly independent.”
Sterling Estates has set the gold standard in Cobb, Ott said.
“(Developers) come in and they’ve said, ‘we want to do senior living, we want to do like a Sterling Estates, but we’re going to do it better,” he said. “I’m, like, ‘OK, then you guys obviously haven’t been inside (Sterling Estates).’”
Ott hosted his town hall meeting last Tuesday at Sterling Estates to showcase the development, accompanied by state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb), who chairs the House’s Health and Human Services Committee. Cooper said there are four seniors coming into the state for every young person.
“We are an aging state, and especially here in Cobb County, in which we have such a good tax break,” Cooper said. “Seniors want to age in place, preferably they want to age in their home, and if they can’t age in their home, they want to go somewhere close to their home.”
Ott said the way typical zonings work is that a developer comes to terms on a price for a piece of property with a rough idea of what he or she plans to do with it and runs the idea by the commissioner.
“There’s not a whole lot of design work that goes in ahead of time, because they don’t want to spend a whole lot of money and then have the project not approved,” Ott said.
When going through a zoning change, a number of promises will be made to the surrounding neighborhoods, such as there being a certain number of trees to be saved, but when the design and engineering work is drawn up, the plans may find that those promises can’t be fulfilled, Ott said. But in the case of Sterling Estates, the developers used software to draft a proposal that matched the final product.
“If I showed you the picture that they submitted with the zoning, it is exactly the same building,” Ott said. “We haven’t done that before. … It creates a great relationship between the developers and the community because there had been a lot of distrust.”
Gill said the layout of the land helped make the development attractive to neighbors.
“The way … the land fell, it helped us to kind of put the big building down in the valley to hide it from Lower Roswell Road,” Gill said. “By putting those cottages along the road, it made it look like an east Cobb subdivision.”
Gill said residents have been pleased not to have to look at a busy street or businesses from their windows.
“It was a great working relationship with the county,” he said. “We took a big risk going almost full fledge in planning to the planning stage before they got it approved. We were willing to take that chance because we knew that something of this magnitude was needed in east Cobb for a new alternative senior living alternative to pick from, that nothing has been built here in 14 years.”
Gill said his firm is considering building another such facility in Georgia, possibly in Cobb County, at a yet to be determined location.