Abiitan Mill City, a new senior apartment complex in downtown Minneapolis, offers views of the skyline from a rooftop clubroom. Submitted photo

Putting the community in senior living community

Updated: February 21, 2017 – 9:08 am

The recently opened Abiitan Mill City has something for everyone, not just seniors.

Senior living community Abiitan Mill City has opened near the Mill District bringing a publicly available restaurant and café along with it.

The five-story building adds 86 units of independent-living apartments and 48 memory-care suites to the quickly growing downtown riverfront. Ecumen, the Shoreview-based owner and developer behind the project, hopes to break the mold of senior living communities where residents stay inside and don’t connect with their community, staff said.

“Abiitan is senior living renvisioned for the active senior. It is different. Everything that we did in this building we kind of sat around a table and said ‘how would we normally do this and how can we do it better?’” said Julie Murray, Ecumen’s chief business development officer and senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Ecumen connected units to keep up with demand for larger apartments, like this corner unit. Submitted photo

Part of the project’s appeal is that it doesn’t just bring in seniors, though residents are limited to ages 55 and older. Smith & Porter, the property’s full-service restaurant and bar, and Porter Café, a casual breakfast and lunch stop, are both operated by Ecumen and can bring in a variety of generations. The nonprofit runs restaurants in about 40 communities.

“We wanted to control the quality. We wanted to make sure that we were offering something really wonderful for our residents as well as the greater community, so it just made sense for us,” she said.

The other appeal is what’s outside the building: the restaurants, venues and parks of the Downtown East area.

“We realized that there are so amenities right here. Instead of having a movie theater, we know that St. Anthony Main [Theatre] isn’t even a mile away. And we have the Guthrie [Theater] right here. We really capitalized on what a wonderful place this is, and it’s hard to do that when everything is in the building and you only stay in the building,” Murray said.

Abiitan Mill City. Submitted photo

For the apartments, independent-living residents have the option of studio units all the way to a three-bedroom apartment. Erwan Moison, Abiitan’s executive director, said they actually reduced the total number of independent-living apartments to 86, down from an initial 103, to keep up with demand for larger units.

Amenities in the building include a solarium, a business center and a rooftop clubroom. There are two levels of underground parking with a total of 180 spaces. All the memory suites, which range from 300 to nearly 700 square feet, are located in the second floor where residents have access to a cafeteria, garden and 24/7 home care.

Moison said instead of a typical fitness center, they have brought in G-Werx Fitness, formerly 501Fit, as a fitness partner and tenant to operate a G-Werx Fitness Training Studio for both residents and members.

Co-owner Diana Broschka said they closed their original location, which had been two blocks away at 501 Washington Ave. S. for about a decade, at the end of January. G-Werx also operates a group and personal training studio at 50th & Bryant in the Lynnhurst neighborhood.

The newly opened 2,000-square-foot location in Abiitan now houses the downtown studio’s clientele and the building’s residents, who get access to the company’s G-Werx resistance training, which utilizes patented machines that are approachable for clients as young as 12 and as old as 87, she added.

“We couldn’t ask for a better location,” Broschka said. “The thought of having to move was scary on a good day.

Each independent-living unit in Abiitan Mill City has a balcony, and some units have walk-up access. Submitted photo

So far 20 independent-living units have been leased after move-ins began last December. A couple residents have moved or will soon move into the memory-care suites, a spokesman with the developer said, though those units weren’t available for pre-leasing.

Moison described the independent-living residents as seniors who are eager to travel and want to take advantage of Abiitan’s resources to age in place.

“A lot of them already love the city. You have a lot of them who had condos and houses in the area who just wanted to stay and enjoy what Mill City has to offer but meanwhile having that health care safety net,” he said. “When they go on vacation, we’ll ask, ‘Where were you last week,’ they say, ‘We just got back from Iran.’ ‘Where are you going next week?’ ‘We’re going to Angola,’” Moison said.

The building, developed in partnership with Lupe Development, is located near the riverfront where the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is planning to overhaul access to the river. Mill City Quarter, an affordable housing development next door that Lupe owns, shares a woonerf or curbless shared street and public parking lot with Abiitan. The plaza, which features a gate that will give access to the board’s future riverfront park, was dedicated for public use under a park dedication ordinance.

Abiitan, located at 428 S. 2nd St, is now open. Smith & Porter, described as an “American casual fine dining” restaurant, is open 4 p.m.–10 p.m. every day with a happy hour from 4 p.m.–6 p.m. Porter Café, which serves sandwiches, soups, salads and Izzy’s Ice Cream, is open 7 a.m.–4 p.m.

Smith & Porter, Abiitan’s restaurant, has a table where individual residents can meet and eat together. Submitted photo