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Posted on Wed, Sep 23, 2009 : 8:09 a.m.

Dexter retirement community sets open house as construction moves forward

By Dan Meisler

With nearly half of the units reserved at the Cedars of Dexter retirement housing project, developer United Methodist Retirement Communities has started construction and has scheduled an open house for the public to tour the cottages.

The project, off Island Lake Road west of downtown Dexter, consists of 60 two-bedroom cottages between 1,500 and 1,900 square feet. Cathy Gallager, director of business development for Cedars of Dexter, said 25 of the cottages are reserved.

"Most are from Ann Arbor, and many taught at the University (of Michigan)," she said of the incoming residents.

Cedars of Dexter, approved in 2008, follows the "continuum of care" model for retirement living, providing seniors a more independent lifestyle before they potentially encounter a need for assisted living or nursing care.

Gallagher said Cedars of Dexter residents will be at the top of the list for space at UMRC's flagship Chelsea Retirement Community, which offers more intensive services.

Residents don't purchase the cottages in Dexter as condos -- instead they put down an entrance fee that is refundable at either 50 percent or 90 percent, depending on the amount, when they leave; and pay a monthly upkeep fee that includes interior and exterior repairs, a meal plan, and lawn care and snow removal, among other things.

A 10 percent deposit is required to reserve a cottage, but that is completely refundable up to 60 days before move-in.

"That takes a lot of pressure off people in this economy," Gallagher said.

The earliest move-in available is March, although the 10,000-square-foot community center won't be completed until next fall, she added. Peters Building Co. of Saline is doing the construction of the units.

The fact that Cedars of Dexter provides a more independent lifestyle makes it more difficult to pre-sell, Gallagher said, because potential residents don't have an urgent need for it.

"Pre-selling a community like this before it's built is a challenge," she said. "It isn't a need-driven product. What it provides is like a built-in safety net."

Generally speaking, senior housing has been one of the more active segments of the market. In 2008, for example, The Traditions, a 31-acre, 280-unit retirement community was approved by Ann Arbor Township officials. Freelance reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at