After waiting nearly six years since receiving its initial approval, Matthews-based Matthews Glen is expanding its facility at a 44-acre parcel of land at the corner of Fullwood Lane and South Trade Street in downtown Matthews.

The construction is set to begin in spring 2015, and will include 256 independent-living units in the first phase of the project. It is estimated construction could take anywhere from four to eight years to complete.

Between 14 and 18 units total will be constructed on the property. The newly-constructed living options will be completed with underground parking and 40 one-story villas with two-car garages. The approximate 1,800- to 2,100-square-foot villas will have two bedrooms with a den, two bathrooms and availability in a choice of styles.

"Matthews Glen has been in business for 26 years and has been a very successful community with high occupancy," Matthews Glen executive director Stephen Messer said. "We don't have villas and duplexes currently, so the expansion gives us another type of living accommodation."

The overall project also includes new formal and casual dining venues, a fitness center, an assisted living residence with 80 suites and a second phase, according to Messer.

"There is already strong interest in both the carriage homes and apartments, and we expect them to sell out quickly," said Messer, who added pre-sales began in October and have already generated a great deal of interest. "Seniors are moving into our communities at a younger age and want accommodations that offer a variety of activities and amenities, along with a plan to meet possible future health needs."

After the first phase is completed, Matthews Glen will build a new skilled care center at its current location, 733 Matthews Glen Drive in Matthews as part of the second phase.

Messer said the timing of the expansion works well for the company, which has operated in Matthews off N.C. 51 for nearly three decades.

"The economy is turning around, and we're seeing a big turnaround in the real estate market which has struggled since 2007 or somewhere around there," Messer said. "We have high demand, and with the housing market getting back on its feet we feel like now's a good time."

Messer said the 256-unit expansion will offer a combination of duplex cottages and apartments. The existing Matthews Glen only has apartments, so the expansion will give the company another option for its senior citizens.

"The expansion will give us the opportunity to grow and to bring in additional residents that we couldn't do without expansion," Messer said. "We've been dealing with a waiting list for years and years. This gives us more of an opportunity to serve seniors, and it also gives us a product that we don't currently have.

"The waiting list depends on the units people are interested in. We have one- to three-bedroom apartments, so the waiting list can go from one to three years. Some people want a first-floor apartment only, and some are more flexible, but there is a waiting list for all units. The expansion will help with the demand, and also give us another option to offer."

Matthews Glen was originally approved in 2008 and was set to begin construction shortly thereafter. However, after the recession hit and the economy took a downturn, the project was put on hold.

In the meantime, the expansion has experienced some resistance. At an August 2014 meeting, Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly reported a standing-room crowd - particularly including Hampton Green residents, who back up to the existing facility, and Matthews residents - who fear an already traffic-heavy area will become increasingly congested.

The new facility will have its main entrance on South Trade Street directly across the street from Country Place, near the entrance to the Four Mile Creek Greenway and Matthews United Methodist Church. A second road will be built on Fullwood, approximately a quarter mile past the intersection of South Trade Street and Fullwood Lane.

"The connection road that will cross over Fullwood and connect both sides of the property with a stoplight," Messer said. "You will be able to cross both sides of the property without having to go on Highway 51, so that is a bonus for us."

Messer said the expansion has been necessary for some time to meet the demand, and once completed will offer a premier retirement destination in the state.

"I don't see it as competition for this side of the road; it's just an addition that we're excited about and that will give more options to our seniors that we don't currently have," he said.

"We're real excited about the villas because we don't have that right now - we're all apartments. A lot of people like the feeling of being out there kind of on their own - it will give people both options and help us better serve the Matthews community."