The Foundation for Senior Living (FSL) is a non-profit with over 40 years of experience providing affordable housing that works to improve the quality of life for seniors, adults with disabilities and their family caregivers, especially the most vulnerable among us. The mission of FSL is to provide home- and community-based services and develop energy-efficient, affordable housing, to promote health, independence and dignity for all. FSL programs are designed to meet the social, health, psychological and spiritual needs of all seniors without discrimination.
The newest of FSL's affordable housing projects is the Marist on Cathedral Square. The Marist is located in the Tucson Downtown Core District, at the southeast corner of Broadway Blvd and Church Ave. This 83-apartment scattered site project is well positioned near a number of amenities and services appropriate for seniors. The project serves seniors age 62 years old and older at 40%, 50% and 60% of the Area Median Income. As a scattered site project, The Marist is composed of two distinct buildings located 200 feet apart from one another. The first is a newly renovated historic college that is over 100 years old and was converted into affordable senior housing. The historic college contains 8 apartment units. The second site is a seven-story mid-rise building containing 75 apartments of affordable senior housing. Both sites have community rooms and amenities for seniors, including a food pantry, fitness center, sitting areas, big screen TV and social services to name a few.
The Marist on Cathedral Square is a very unique project. The most impressive aspect is the renovation to the historic Marist College. The college was added to the 2012 list of Most Endangered Historic Places by the Arizona Preservation Foundation. This is a list of critically endangered cultural resources of major historical significance to the state. Each of the places on the list is an important historic site but is in grave danger of collapse, demolition or destruction. In an effort to save the Marist, it was crucial that residents, private interests and government officials act quickly to restore elements lending to our cultural heritage before it was too late.
The historic preservation of the old college is only one of the impressive call outs of this project. The seven-story mid-rise building is brand new construction that makes a stunning addition to the downtown Tucson skyline. Beautiful both inside and outside, the mid-rise building features community spaces on every other floor as well as a previously mentioned community room with fitness center and food pantry. The FSL development team spent considerable time working with the Tucson Community Outreach Program for the deaf (COPD) to make the units as comfortable and accessible as possible for residents with special hearing and vision abilities. There are several units reserved for this special population.
All of this work was dedicated to serve seniors on low incomes in the Tucson area. Many of these seniors only receive basic social security each month to cover rent, utilities, food, medication and all other expenses. As with all of our FSL properties, the owner pays all utilities. This helps our residents with fewer deposits and budgeting, providing access to quality service-enriched affordable housing helps these seniors so that their financial condition is greatly improved.
The old Marist College was originally built in 1915 and is the only existing three-story mud adobe structure in the state of Arizona. Originally a school for boys, it accepted boarding and day students from grammar school through high school sophomores. Bishop Henry Regis Granjon, the building’s designer, brought the Marist brothers to Tucson to fulfill their commitment to educating underprivileged students all around the world. They provided service to everyone in the community, even during a time of segregation. It remained a facility for education until 1968 when it became office space for the Diocese of Tucson. The building had been vacant since 2002.
The building had suffered serious water damage and was in grave danger of collapse. After several years of failed attempts by others to restore the Marist College, the FSL development team stepped in and starting its planning and due diligence in 2015. Construction started in May of 2017 and was completed in November 2018. Today the building houses low-income seniors in the most magnificent way and provides several supportive services for these seniors.
Over the entire 100+ year lifespan of this building, it has served underprivileged, at-risk populations who depend on the vital services provided within its walls, whether it be education in the past or safe affordable housing now. In its current use as affordable senior housing, it provides one of a limited number of affordable housing options for seniors in the downtown Tucson area. Centrally located near an abundance of amenities and a senior center, The Marist has changed the lives of its residents for the better. These low-income seniors would not otherwise have access to such services and would face the distressing prospect of losing their housing due to their inability to pay market rate rents. This addition to the Tucson community is priceless to those who depend upon it.
The greatest measure of success of the Marist on Cathedral Square is its capacity to fill the deep need for affordable senior housing in the Tucson area. The need for low- to very low-income senior housing was the major factor in the determination to build The Marist on Cathedral Square. The conversion of the only affordable housing senior project located in downtown Tucson into a market rate rental project (Armory Park Apartments) created an acute need for a replacement in the area. There are limited affordable housing options offered in the Tucson area. When FSL announced that it was going to develop affordable senior living, the list of prospective residents was over 100 people before the property was even built yet.
According to Jim Murphey, retired CEO of the Pima Council on Aging and President of the Tucson Housing Foundation Board of Trustees, noted that “every city-owned public-housing apartment complex and those built and subsidized through a number of federal programs has waiting lists for men and women 62 years of age and older.” Mr. Murphey added that “older adults in Pima County, who have limited income and are trying to live on Social Security or SSI payments simply do not have enough money to cover their housing and care cost.” Many seniors are deterred or discouraged by the long waitlists, some as many as 900 people long.
The construction and renovation of the Marist on Cathedral Square and its 83 units of affordable senior housing has filled a need in downtown Tucson and given hope and safety to seniors who would otherwise be vulnerable and face precarious living conditions.