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New Whittier Heights development offers stylish but affordable housing for seniors

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Standing at a second-floor window Wednesday afternoon, Eileen Bradshaw couldn’t hear the front-loader working in the parking lot just below, much less Interstate 244 traffic only half a block away.

Soundproofing at affordable senior housing?

“Why not?” said Bradshaw, president and CEO of LIFE Senior Services Vintage Housing. “Nothing about it feels like ‘affordable housing’ at all.”

LIFE Senior Services hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for a 52-unit independent-living apartment complex near I-244 and Lewis Avenue, just north of the trendy Whittier Square district. Visitors could still smell the fresh paint and crews had not quite finished paving the parking lot, but the property was already fully leased, Bradshaw said.

“With a considerable waiting list too,” she added.

Whittier Heights became the newest addition to LIFE Senior Services’ growing portfolio of affordable senior housing in the Tulsa area, starting 28 years ago with Pioneer Village in Jenks.

The nonprofit group has now developed more than a dozen complexes, providing hundreds of affordable housing units for thousands of residents.

The results demonstrate that affordable housing, contrary to stereotypes, can enhance a neighborhood’s character, said Bill Major, executive director of the Zarrow Family Foundations.

Whittier Heights will “make a huge difference for the neighborhood, for the city and for seniors who need a decent and safe place to live.”

Reserved for residents over the age of 55, units feature open floor plans, generous closets and stylish fixtures while the complex includes a storm shelter, clubhouse, fitness center and barbecue area.

Wide doorways and roll-in showers provide wheelchair accessibility, but the design carefully avoided “an institutional look,” Bradshaw said.

“We wanted a place where people would feel comfortable bringing their families and having friends over,” she said. “We want it to be a true community, because that’s important to have no matter your income.”

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