Kellgren Senior Apartments open house this weekend

  • "Buz" Hermes of PEP Housing, Art Wagner and Ron Bausman of Alphabet Soup Benefit Thrift Store.

Early next week, about 50 area seniors will start moving in to the newest PEP Housing apartments in Petaluma, the Kellgren Senior Apartments on Wood Sorrell just off North McDowell Boulevard. They are the lucky ones, selected from hundreds of applicants to reside in the newly built, green complex.

Commuters on McDowell Boulevard have been able to see the apartments transform over the past year, and now that it's completed they'll have the chance to take a peek inside at the community open house this Saturday and Sunday, March 15 and 16.

The apartments will become available to some of the area residents who need them most – people 62 and over, mostly women, who cannot otherwise afford to find a place to live in an increasingly expensive and in-demand rental market.

"I feel like I won the housing lottery," said Kathleen McTeigue, who at 64 will be one of the youngest of the new tenants. The analogy is apt: with a two-year waiting list and demand so strong for affordable housing, PEP actually did have a lottery to determine who of hundreds of applicants could claim one of the units.

Kellgren Senior Apartments is the latest of 15 housing developments provided by PEP Housing, Petaluma Ecumenical Properties, founded in 1978. Others range from larger complexes like Casa Grande Senior Apartments on Vallejo Street, to as small as a duplex on Wilson Street. PEP has also developed senior housing in Santa Rosa, Kentfield and even Oroville in Yuba County.

The apartments are named for Pastor Tim Kellgren, a founder of PEP and this year's Citizen of the Year in the Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence sponsored by the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce and the Petaluma Argus-Courier.

Even though it's subsidized housing for low-income seniors, this is no bleak, impersonal "project." The three-story complex is painted bright Mediterranean shades of sienna and ochre, and features a small dog walk, raised garden beds, water-efficient landscaping and a solar-powered community center. The 49 620-square foot, one-bedroom units also include many modern energy-efficient, cost-effective features such as combined on-demand hot-water heater and furnace, double-glazed windows, acoustic insulation and even fresh air vents that allow outside air to circulate without opening a door or even a window

"Each time we open a property we learn from the properties we've developed before," said Gary Hermes, community partnerships director for PEP Housing. "We're taking advantage of new technology — one of the big expenses that people have, if they want to have computer access, is Internet fees. So this property will have Wi-Fi throughout, so people don't have to pay."

Hermes points out that PEP has won several environmental awards already, the latest being the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), California's highest and most prestigious environmental honor, awarded in December 2013. "Green" building techniques and materials have been used throughout this latest of PEP's many local projects.

The social hub of the complex is sure to be the community center, a wide-open high-ceilinged structure just off the parking lot. As well as a new 50-inch flat screen TV and a number of round tables for socializing or games, there are also state-of-the art high-tech features like a touch-screen health kiosk, a "cyber-cycle" with virtual road routes for exercise and a computer room. These too will be open for inspection and even testing at the open house.

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