Proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans has a site northwest of Omaha

A nonprofit group founded by a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel has obtained a site and is marching toward city zoning approvals for a proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans in suburban Omaha.

That constitutes a step forward for retired Col. John Folsom’s vision, but it still has a long trek ahead before becoming reality. He estimates that it will cost $11 million, and the group has about $2 million on hand, Folsom said.

The site is farm ground northwest of 120th Street and Rainwood Road. That’s about a half-mile west of the Omaha Public Safety Training Center in a mostly rural area northwest of Omaha.

Wounded Warriors Family Support, the Omaha-based nonprofit that Folsom founded to support families of U.S. troops wounded or killed in combat, proposes to build a 24-bed residential home for combat-wounded veterans who have no one in their lives capable of providing day-to-day care. It could someday house as many as 100 veterans in 10 home-like living units adjacent to an administrative building.

Folsom said it would serve people who were severely wounded in combat, including those who suffered traumatic brain injuries, an all-too-common occurrence in the United States’ wars in this century.

“These soldiers and sailors would come from all over the States,” he said. “A lot of them are living with their parents. Mom and Dad are going to age out and not be able to take care of them anymore. ... They’re going to get dumped in a civilian assisted-living facility. We think we can do better.”

Wounded Warriors Family Support Inc. paid $1 million to purchase 80 acres of farmland from Mount Calvary Commandery #1 in January, according to Douglas County records.

Wounded Warriors hopes to build its facility on the northern half of the property. It hasn’t said what it would do with the southern 40 acres.

The organization is asking the City of Omaha to rezone the property from agricultural to residential. The city’s future land use map envisions the land as being home to industry someday, but city planners have indicated that they think it would be acceptable to change that to residential.

City planners want Wounded Warriors to submit suitable plans for building a street from Rainwood Road into its building site, widening Rainwood Road for a turn lane and creating a stub street for future development.

The street off Rainwood Road would have to be built to withstand heavy-duty vehicles because adjoining property is still planned as future industrial land.

City planners also want the organization to submit analyses of trees and any wetlands on the property. And they want the developers to coordinate with the Omaha Public Works Department on connecting to a sanitary sewer line.

Those are all standard requirements for a development in such an area. The Omaha Planning Board voted last week to postpone a vote on preliminary plans and rezoning for the site to give the organization time to work on the details.

HDR Inc. representatives have been working with city planners and are confident they will have those details worked out in time for a Planning Board vote in August, said Robert Hailey of HDR, the lead architect on the project.

Hailey, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, said city planning officials have reacted positively to the design. As for the proposed housing arrangement, Hailey said it is the type of footprint the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to move toward: smaller, family-like living quarters, or pods, around a larger common building.

Meanwhile, Folsom is hoping that the idea catches on with donors.

“I think it will, if somehow we can get national attention on this,” he said. “I don’t believe that anybody in America is doing what we’re proposing to do.”