The Sunflower Plaza Tower residents know first hand how nice it is to live there.

Cindy McCullough, property manager for the past 11 years, said the residents get all excited about voting in the Ottawa Herald’s Best of the Best contest. Sunflower Plaza won again in 2018 as the best apartment complex.

“Our residents get involved in that,” McCullough said. “They know they are the best. They are living in the best place, so they get very excited each year when that comes around.”

The Sunflower Plaza Tower, 701 S. Poplar St., Ottawa, opened in 1978 for independent seniors that are 62 and older. The management and residents will throw a big party for the community 2 p.m. Wednesday to celebrate its 40th year.

“It will be a big fun celebration,” McCullough said. “I have been thinking about it all year, making lists. We sent out invitations to past residents that moved to a nursing home. They are a big part of that 40 years. The mayor will come and give us a proclamation. We will have lots of food and door prizes for the residents. We have lots of pictures throughout the 40 years. They can see the history of the building.”

McCullough said the residents are a close knit group.

“They really do feel like family,” McCullough said. “They refer to themselves as family. So many of them grew up together and knew each other their whole lives.”

The building has 60 one-bedroom apartments and is always at capacity.

“We have a really good reputation,” McCullough said. “I keep a constant wait list. People call me daily to see where they are at on the list. My biggest advertising has been word of mouth.”

McCullough said many of the residents had family members live there.

“It has turned into this generational thing,” she said. “It is really cool. They knew one day they would live here.”

The independent living complex is a HUD Section-8 subsidized building. McCullough said the rent for the seniors is based on their income.

“It helps seniors because they are on a fixed income,” McCullough said. “The rent includes all the utilities. It is a nice place. They don’t have to worry about anything. All kinds of maintenance issues are taken care of. We have a secure building.”

McCullough said the residents stay active, which keeps them young at heart.

“I honestly think seeing the [seniors], it is so true that being active keeps them young,” she said. “You can see it here. They go, go all the time. We have all kinds of activities [here] each month. The majority of the residents that live here fall in the 80s and 90s. You would not know that to see them and talk with them.”

McCullough said the longest-tenured residents right now have lived there for 15 to 20 years. She said the longest living resident moved to a nursing home earlier this year after 23 years. Thelma Moore is 104 and still going strong, McCullough added.

“She hated to have to leave,” McCullough said. “She is like the milestone of the building. I hope she can come to the celebration.”

McCullough said Moore was trailblazer for women during her younger years.

“She was the first female in Franklin County to own her own business,” McCullough said. “She was a beautician and had her shop for 40 years.”

McCullough said the residents tell interesting stories of the past.

“I can get a history lesson [of Ottawa] by sitting at coffee,” McCullough said. “We have a large coffee group. They are very fascinating. The have such a happiness about them when we are talking about those times. You can picture everything. We have a lot of people that live here that used to work at King Radio. I hear the stories.”

The history of the building itself is pretty extensive. McCullough was told the property was originally bought to build Ottawa University campus housing, but that project fell through. She said in 1976 the Sunflower Plaza owners purchased the property and began building the complex in 1977. She said Sunflower Plaza opened in May 1978.

“We have pictures of those first people that moved in,” McCullough said. “I will have that out for our open house. One of the residents — that has passed on — gave me a picture that was taken by people living across the street [during construction]. It was the shell of the building. I will have that on display. We remodeled the downstairs in 2014. We did the upper floors common areas earlier this year. We are getting all spruced up.”

McCullough said the whole building consists of concrete and steel beams. She said those that watched it being built told her it was quite the ordeal.

“It is the safest place in the county [to live] because of all the concrete walls,” McCullough said. “You never hear any noise.”