For Michael and Marisa Sigala, the development of a $10 million innovative senior assisted living community at Sierra Avenue and Hwy 168 is deeply personal.
As Michael’s mother, Norberta, approached 80 years old and was diagnosed with dementia, the Clovis couple faced monumental decisions on how to care for her.
“It’s very hard to care for any elderly, and I was at my mom’s house four or five times a week after school. I’ve got kids, I’ve got work — it’s a hard thing for anyone to juggle,” Michael said. “I really had to figure out a way to do something.”
Norberta, now 83, refused to live in traditional senior living homes, Michael said.
“She just wouldn’t have anything to do with that, so we had to find something else,” he said. “We had to find something better and it wasn’t out there.”
With backgrounds in planning — Michael is the former Housing and Community Development Director of the City of Fresno and Marisa is a former executive of Transamerica Senior Living — the couple decided to come up with their own solution.
The Sigalas formed a startup nonprofit, Innovative Development and Living Solutions of California, and got to work planning its first project: Magnolia Crossing.
Built on what was once a ponding basin, Magnolia Crossing will consist of three custom homes, much different from the three-story, 80-bed model at standard care homes.
“In each home there will be 16 rooms that surround a common area,” said Marisa Sigala at the site’s groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 15. “There are no long corridors; you can walk out of your bedroom and you’re in the living room or the kitchen. You’re more comfortable interacting with your neighbors.”
Each bedroom will have its own connecting restroom — a well-researched decision, the Sigalas said.
“We wanted to maintain the seniors’ dignity by having their own room and their one private bathroom,” Marisa said. “That was important to us.”
The homes’ exteriors and landscape design will blend in with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
“It’s about creating a beautiful environment, because where there’s beauty, there’s hope,” said Terry Broussard of Broussard Associates Landscape Architects in Clovis, which designed Magnolia Crossing’s outdoor spaces.
The homes won’t have a traditional drop-off zone like many senior living facilities.
“You drop your mom off in the garage,” Marisa said. “Just pull your car in and drop them off, which is helpful when it’s really hot outside or raining.”
Michael sited loneliness, depression and hopelessness as a few issues medically found to affect seniors and their well-being. “By this design we’re able to address those issues more proactively,” he said.
Magnolia Crossing will also be environmentally friendly with a planned 25,000 square-foot solar farm and EV charging station.
Seniors will be looked after by a universal caregiver — a human-centered, holistic approach that encourages staff engagement. Magnolia Crossing will create 25 full-time jobs for local residents.
“The universal caregiver will take care of you, cook for you — they’re like family members,” Marisa said.
The Sigalas further determined a model was needed where lower income seniors could afford a quality place to live.
“Seniors in this community and across the country are facing a crisis,” Michael said. “There’s a lot of components to this — the cost of healthcare, the cost of housing — that’s really make it a daunting future for seniors.”
Fourteen of the 48 units will be designated for low-income seniors who can use Medi-Cal Assisted Living Waivers to secure a spot, officials said.
Another 10 units will house moderate-income seniors at a discounted rate, and 24 units will be reserved for private-pay residents.
The City of Clovis purchased the property when Highway 168 was built, with the intent of one day using it for lower or middle-income housing, said mayor pro tem Bob Whalen.
That opportunity finally came when the Sigalas approached the city with their plan.
“Magnolia Crossing provides quality choices in housing and services for seniors, creates employment opportunities for local residents, builds community capacity to engage with stakeholders and supports environmental sustainability,” Whalen said. “Its unique approach to design, care philosophy and financing make it a model for the nation for addressing the ever-increasing demands for elderly housing.”
The Sigalas envision expanding to include other types of assisted living facilities, including memory care homes and homes for veterans.
“It’s about helping out the most needy in our society,” Michael said.
Funding of the $10 million was guided by Northern California Community Loan Fund in Sacramento using new market tax credits. Funding partners included US Bank, Capital Impact Partners and Fresno Community Development Financial Institution.
Fresno CDFI is a nonprofit non-bank lender that has helped fund other local startups such as FRI Poutinerie, Tofas and Casa de Tamales, said senior operations manager Jeremy Hofer.
“Our goal is to make these types of projects happen, to create jobs and create businesses,” he said. “We’re excited about bringing something new.”
Construction is scheduled to be completed in the fall, with the first resident moving in before the end of 2017, officials said.
Contractor Paul Quiring of Quiring Corporation in Fresno said his company has been involved in senior care construction for more than 20 years.
“It’s a piece of the market that we feel very passionate about,” he said, remarking on his own parents and in-laws who lived in senior housing before their deaths. “I have a personal understanding of how important it is, in those last years of your life, to live with the kind of dignity that Michael and Marisa have described.”
Paul Halajian Architects of Clovis designed the homes.
“As architects, it's a rare opportunity when we get the chance to work with clients like Michael and Marisa who are doing something that’s innovative and original and unique and important,” said Paul Halajian at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This is something that will be a bedrock in the community; it’s going to play an important role in the lives of people.”
IDLS is seeking tax-deductible contributions from the community to complete key outdoor design features for Magnolia Crossing. Naming opportunities are available.
Visit www.idlsca.org for information or to donate to the nonprofit.
For project info call (559) 326-2093 or email email@example.com.
For future resident info, call (559) 825-1735.