Mercy Franciscan at Winton Woods ready for occupancy

What used to be a place where men prepared themselves for religious life has become home to senior citizens who otherwise could not afford an apartment of their own.

The former seminary building at 10290 Mill Road was recently converted into an apartment complex named Mercy Franciscan at Wanton Woods. To be eligible for residency, applicants had to be age 62 or older and meet certain federal income guidelines to be placed in one of the 73 apartment units, said Sharon Thornton, executive director of Mercy Franciscan at Winton Woods.

The application process was conducted to ensure fairness, Thornton said. Numbers were placed on the applications, and Internal Revenue and Housing and Urban Development guidelines were used for eligibility. Applications housing units began being accepted on March 27.

Response to the project has been tremendous, Thornton said. About 200 people came to an information meeting March 6 to 1earn about the new apartment residence and federal income qualifications.

"With rent being so affordable, people have been very interested in the housing," she said.

Considerable renovation was done on the former seminary building, which has been divided between dormitories and classrooms. The $7 million project by Mercy Health Partners included gutting rooms, putting up new walls, purchasing new furnishings and completely replacing the air conditioning and heating systems.

Providing affordable housing to low income senior citizens "has strong ties to the Mercy mission, even to the grass roots of the sisters of Mercy," Thornton said. The seminary building also has a bit of historical interest, she added. Tom Cruise, a movie actor, studied there for around a year before abandoning plans for a religious vocation, she said.

There are plans for construction this summer of several garden homes and cottages for senior citizens on the 110 acres surrounding the apartment residence complex, she said. Also, assisted living quarters are planned on the property owned by Mercy Health Partners under a proposed five-year 20-million dollar development project.

Mercy Health Partners is an integrated holistic-based health-care network with more than 85 care-delivery sites in Southwest Ohio and encompasses six acute-care hospitals, four long-term care facilities, two social service agencies, four urgent-care centers, health centers, hospice programs, centers for health and wellness, outreach programs and an array of other programs and services. Mercy Health Partners is a member of Catholic Health Care Partners, the seventh-largest not-for-profit health system in the United States.