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Eastern Kentucky University and the City of Richmond have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership. The newest example, the establishment of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Local Development Area, will bring to the community a much-needed assisted living facility for at least 100 seniors of low to moderate income, and provide hands-on educational opportunities and employment for EKU students.

The 32-acre local development area, the EKU Strategic Growth Development Area, is located on the south side of the Richmond campus, between the EKU Center for the Arts, Business and Technology Center and Perkins Building and bounded by Lancaster Road on the west and Kit Carson Drive to the east and south. The University is providing the land and direction for the project; the city will forego its resulting share of property and occupational taxes for the next 20 years to support the facility; the project will be developed, owned and operated by a private enterprise; and the Kentucky Housing Corporation will handle the financing. It is anticipated that the facility will employ 40-60 people, including some students. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with completion slated for 2021. It would be the first such facility in the Commonwealth made possible by a town-and-gown TIF partnership.

EKU President Michael Benson is familiar with these projects as well as similar partnerships that have been established in other college towns between universities and various government and other agencies. 

"Just as the Eastern Scholar House has opened a whole new range of opportunities for our campus and community, we see this TIF project as providing another level of possibilities," Benson said. "It is incredibly exciting, and we are grateful to all those who have supported the effort thus far."

Initial discussions stemmed from a trip last year by community and campus leaders to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they discussed various partnerships between that city and its local universities.

EKU Regent Lewis Diaz credited Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes for his eager embrace of such an arrangement back home.

“Our College of Health Sciences space is good, but we want a unique laboratory space to help our students be ready for one of the fastest-growing demographics of healthcare,” Diaz said. “We looked at the possibility of creating a joint venture where our students could go to get hands-on experience. A living laboratory seemed like a natural fit and the perfect thing to have on a university campus.”

Diaz added that residents would have convenient access to all that EKU offers: programs at the adjacent EKU Center for the Arts and other cultural events; community education classes at the adjacent Perkins Building; sporting events at the nearby Alumni Coliseum and Roy Kidd Stadium, among other sites; and more.

“This will be a great thing for the residents of our community,’ said Mayor Jim Barnes. “I personally know and understand the value this type of facility can bring to the lives of our neighbors, friends and family. These types of partnerships between the city and the University are exactly what we will have to do in order to keep getting better every day.”

It is expected that the assisted living facility will encompass students and faculty from a variety of academic programs in the EKU College of Health Sciences, including nursing, occupational therapy, recreation, and family and consumer sciences.

Dr. David McFaddin, vice president of engagement, regional stewardship and government relations at EKU, called the project “a great example of the intersection of need for this assisted living space combined with our expertise and academic programs in the College of Health Sciences.

“It’s also a way for us to continue providing opportunities for our students and services for the community while minimizing the financial exposure for the University,” McFaddin added. “It’s a strategic way to be a catalyst for job creation.”

The facility is expected to house Medicaid recipients, targeted as a pilot to reduce the cost to the Commonwealth and materially improve the quality of life for the residents. “We think this is a model that will serve the state, the University, the city and most importantly, the individuals who will live there,” McFaddin said.