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Senior complex in jeopardy

Lutheran Life Villages suspends $50 million ‘resort’

Officials at Lutheran Life Villages last winter embarked on a project they said would result in a $50 million, 178-unit “resort-style” senior citizen complex for independent and assisted-living.

Now, they are taking a step back.

Stopping short of saying the development has been scrapped, interim President and CEO Alex Kiefer said Friday it has been “suspended right now.”

The complex was to be constructed at the northwest corner of Coldwater and Pion roads and create at least 75 jobs, averaging $16 an hour. Uncertainty involving the economy, health care costs, the presidential election, and unrest among global markets put the development on hold, Kiefer said.

The Allen County Plan Commission approved the 290,000-square-foot development in March 2011.

“We want to make sure we put the right product there for the long-term,” Kiefer said. “We will keep the land. We love the site. We are a conservative Lutheran organization, and we have to be good stewards of the money that we’ve been entrusted with.”

Lutheran Life is a non-profit supported by 59 northeast Indiana churches. The group has senior care facilities in Kendallville and two locations in Fort Wayne, including The Villages at Pine Valley on Coldwater Road that opened in August.

Some may not consider Lutheran’s retreat too startling considering comments made by former President Bruce Blalock. During the approval process, he said “the economy is tough, so it will take some time.” He said it would take two years to market the planned complex to draw residents.

Blalock left Lutheran Life Villages in April. Kiefer would only say that “he chose to go in another direction.”

Officials made the decision to put the brakes on the resort-style senior facility earlier this month, Kiefer said.

Last December, Lutheran Life officials celebrated the planned $50 million senior citizen campus with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event was the first marketing pitch by the company to generate interest in the facility.