Tower plans promising

The old Heritage USA tower appears to be one big step closer to escaping demolition. If the tower's owners succeed in renovating the structure according to ambitious new plans, the county's patience will be vindicated.

The County Council recently gave initial approval to plans by MorningStar Ministries to turn the 20-story tower into an expanded living center for seniors. The plan calls for adding three wings that will shore up the building and add space to house about 250 residents 55 and older.

The center would feature living space with five different floor plans for active seniors along with space for assisted living and skilled nursing care. The first and second floors could have amenities ranging from a beauty shop to a dry cleaner and a convenience store. The top floor would be used for a restaurant.

Developers still must provide the county with a construction timeline and a plan for financing the project. The council has referred the initial plans to its zoning committee and will vote again on the project Oct. 1.

The tower, which was begun but never finished by Heritage USA, was regarded by those living in the area as an eyesore. Developers first considered taking the tower down two years ago.

MorningStar, after buying much of the old Heritage property, had hopes of renovating the tower from the start but dragged its feet in presenting a plan to the county. County officials gave MorningStar a deadline of January to come up with a plan. If owners failed to meet that deadline, they would be required to demolish the tower or pay fines of $465 a day until they did.

But when MorningStar missed the January deadline because of a variety of setbacks, the county relented and agreed to work with the owners to find a solution. In March and May, the council extended deadlines for 90-day periods, ultimately resulting in the proposal presented to council last week.

While much work remains, this plan appears to represent significant progress toward a new lease on life for the old tower. A new senior residential center would be a welcome addition to the county, and we hope this plan works out.

Former Heritage USA tower may become a residential center for seniors.