Before she moved into a first-floor apartment at Hawthorne Hills, Marcia Henson lived on the third floor of Willow Manor across the street. Before that, she lived in a basement apartment on a Brown County hill.

Neither situation was ideal for her. She gets dizzy spells and doesn’t enjoy being up high.

Wednesday morning she unloaded groceries with her granddaughter, easily passing them over the rail of her patio decorated with rocking chairs and flower boxes while her cat peeked from inside.

“For a person living alone in an area with bad access, being able to live with other people their age, interact with good friends, close to a walking area, it’s perfect,” said Jeff Ryan, vice president of development for RealAmerica LLC.

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“We have a significant number of people in that situation who can’t or don’t want to maintain a larger house anymore.”

Hawthorne Hills, containing 57 one-and two-bedroom apartments for seniors, opened July 1 and had 17 people move in the same day, Ryan said.

About 45 apartments had been leased by July 26, said executive assistant Yvonne Sloan.

Potential residents can get tours and more information about the building at a grand opening Friday, Aug. 12.

Ryan believes the residents who aren’t moving from inside Brown County are coming from the south side of Indianapolis or Columbus — “that triangle that hang out in Nashville all the time anyway,” he said — though the company is not keeping track where they are moving from.

To live in Hawthorne Hills or in sister property Willow Manor, residents must be at least 55 with no children living with them and make under a certain maximum income according to federal guidelines for household size.

The maximum is different for every county, but it makes most seniors living on Social Security, a pension and some savings eligible for an apartment, Ryan said.

Rents are kept at low levels according to federal rules for these developments. Currently, they’re between $335 and $699 per month for a one-bedroom and between $406 and $769 for a two-bedroom at Hawthorne Hills, the developer’s website says.

Pets are welcome at Hawthorne Hills and Willow Manor, Sloan said. There’s even a dog park at the new building that residents of both properties can use, and the Salt Creek Trail is nearly within sight for longer walks.

To make the $8.5 million project possible, the Nashville Town Council granted RealAmerica a 10-year break on new property taxes — the first tax abatement it had ever approved.

Through 2027, RealAmerica will only pay taxes on the value of the vacant land, not on the value of the land with the new building on it, estimated at a $326,000 savings.

The company also won $751,781 in income tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. RealAmerica sells those credits to companies looking to pay less in taxes.

This is the third housing development RealAmerica has built in Brown County since 2010.

Its first — the 65-unit Willow Manor — often has a waiting list, and the 72 Forest Hills Apartments for low-income families in Gnaw Bone are often 90 percent or more occupied, Ryan said.

Those developments helped fill a need for low-income or entry-level housing made even worse by the flood of 2008, which damaged or destroyed 55 to 100 homes in Brown County.

As a need for more “affordable” housing is being discussed and defined among town and county boards, would RealAmerica have interest in doing another project?

“We are looking at other housing opportunities in Brown County,” Ryan said.

If more housing were to be built here, he said it likely would be for anyone regardless of income or age, but he couldn’t say what type of housing that might be or when it might materialize.

“We’ve just been very happy with the area and the town, and the support we’ve gotten from the community has been wonderful. We like working there and we want to continue,” he said.

Take a peek

What: Grand opening of Hawthorne Hills senior apartments

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12

Where: 111 Hawthorne Drive

Who: Anyone interested in seeing the new building or inquiring about renting an apartment in Hawthorne Hills or in Willow Manor across the street. Applications can be filled out at the event. Inquiries also can be made by calling the Willow Manor office at (812) 720-9400.

Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.