ST. LOUIS - The seniors housing industry may be moving along at a snail's pace these days, but you would not know it if you visited a certain 51-acre site in south St. Louis County. There, construction has begun on Meramec Bluffs, a 750,000 sq. ft., $65 million senior housing complex that will feature independent living apartments, and assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

The complex, which will overlook the Meramec River, will be the largest in the St. Louis metropolitan area, according to locally based Paric Corp., the general contractor of the project. Locally based Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) is the developer of the complex, which was designed ACI Boland Inc., also of St. Louis, and Pittsburgh-based Perkins Eastman Architects. Completion of the independent living segment is slated for spring 2002.

The independent living section of Meramec Bluffs will feature a 567,000 sq. ft. hotel-style apartment complex with 298 studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The apartments will have a full kitchen, living room, dining room, alarm system and housekeeping services. Most of the units will also have a balcony and den. The fourth floor of the apartment building will have amenities such as a heated, indoor swimming pool; a fitness center; a beauty salon; a bank; a restaurant; and an ice cream parlor.

A cluster of 25 two- and three-bedroom patio homes will also be a part of the independent living section. The homes will range in size from 1,400 sq. ft. to 1,800 sq. ft. Patio home residents will have access to all of the amenities in the apartment building. The apartment complex and most of the patio homes will be complete by spring 2002.

The two-story, 68,000 sq. ft. assisted living section will have 80 units, 20 of which will be reserved for residents in the early stages of dementia. The U-shaped assisted living section will also feature a dining area and an activity room.

The three-story, 70,000 sq. ft. skilled nursing section will feature private and semi-private rooms totaling 80 beds. Support services will occupy the first floor of the T-shaped building.