First Community Village will begin construction in the summer on a 70-unit independent-living building that will allow for new residents and replace 30 "obsolete" garden villas at the site.

Land preparation and construction of a gatehouse designed to guide visitors to First Community Village and eliminate cut-through traffic to Fifth Avenue is expected to begin in the summer, officials said.

That work will pave the way for the Fairfax, a 5-story, 70-unit independent-living complex that will feature wellness and spa services for residents at 1800-02 Riverside Drive in Upper Arlington.

"It will allow us new tenants," said Todd Hutchins, public-relations director for National Church Residences, which owns First Community Village.

The Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning unanimously approved a major site plan for the project April 16, giving it the green light to proceed.

The project also is supported by the city's Planning Division, with senior planning officer Chad Gibson saying it will upgrade existing senior-living options in the community.

"First Community Village has been a senior housing campus at this locale for several decades," Gibson said. "It provides essential housing choices for seniors in a beautiful, parklike setting.

"The proposed independent-living building furthers an abundance of goals and objectives noted in the city's updated master plan and replaces aging, outdated garden-style units. The proposal includes both high-quality development and a significant reinvestment -- around $37 million -- enhancing an already-thriving senior housing campus."

First Community Village opened in 1963 and provides assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing, as well as a fitness center, swimming pool and salon.

The 143,622-square-foot project will yield four levels of residential housing built atop a 70-space parking garage. Access to the site will be provided by a Waltham Road driveway.

It also will replace 30 garden villas that a staff report from Gibson's office called "aging" and "outdated" with "a high-quality independent-living facility" that will serve the needs current and future seniors and "ensure the long-term sustainability of the First Community Village community."

In addition to new housing options, Hutchins said, the project would yield more green space at First Community Village and provide a host of wellness amenities.

"It's going to bring us more cardio-exercise space by creating a yoga center," Hutchins said. "It will create much more green space.

"Through extensive research ... we found the residents were wanting more green space. This will be a new entryway onto our campus with a wellness center and an open-air pavilion."

Gibson said the project will enhance the community's appearance through a "well-articulated, brick-and-stone building, as well as landscaping, entrance and overall site improvements."

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