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Multimillion-dollar retirement project comes to a close; where Lawrence ranks in the list of best college basketball towns


This thought hit me recently: Retirement homes may become wild and crazy places in the near future. Scary as it may be, the people who are getting ready to retire are those who lived during the 1970s disco and party scene. Well, I don’t know if a disco ball is on the amenity list, but a multimillion-dollar retirement facility is now complete in west Lawrence, and yes, it does include a bar.

The new Pioneer Ridge Independent Living Center near Harvard and Wakarusa officially opened for business last week. Debbie Walker, regional director of independent living for Pioneer Ridge’s parent company, said the project includes 77 apartments for people 55 and older.

“We have tried to design it with a really progressive style,” Walker said.

That includes a large “hub” area that features a fireplace, a pool table and a full bar. In addition, there is a fitness club with equipment geared toward the 55-plus population, a theater with a hearing loop system, an area dedicated to arts and crafts, and a space devoted to restaurant-style dining service.

“We have had a few people comment that they want to move in before they are 55,” Walker said.

The project has been a big one in west Lawrence for more than a year. In 2015, the city issued $12 million worth of permits at the Pioneer Ridge campus. Walker said the project has been an even longer time in the making. The project has been an important one for the company because the addition of assisted living units gives the Pioneer Ridge campus a true continuum of care concept. The campus long has had the skilled nursing unit, and a rehabilitation unit. The assisted living component was lacking until the expansion project.

The assisted living project includes a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. All units come with a meal plan and transportation options for residents. But residents can choose other levels of service depending on their individual situations.

As for the units themselves, Walker said they were designed with a “full-home concept.” That means units do have kitchens, including granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Walker said interest in the new units, which were built just to the south of the longtime Pioneer Ridge facility, has been strong.

“We are seeing a lot of retirees who want to come back to Lawrence,” Walker said. “They love the KU culture, the vibrancy of Lawrence and they love being close to health care.”

Walker said the apartments, with the meal plans and transportation, are leasing from $2,400 to $4,200 per month, depending on the size of the unit and other factors.

In other news and notes from around town:

• While we are on the subject of bars, some of you keep asking me for more information about the Blue Moose Bar & Grill near Sixth and Wakarusa Drive. I would say you should look for that project to open soon. City commissioners at their meeting tonight are scheduled to approve the drinking establishment license for the bar and restaurant.

• As editor of the newspaper, I sometimes get asked why the Journal-World doesn’t have a religion section. I reply that we do: We cover KU basketball practically every day of the year. (Apologies, and yes, my family does stand far away from me out of fear of lightning bolts.)

But if one new report is to be believed, there are even places crazier than Lawrence for college basketball. The financial website WalletHub recently released its list of Best and Worst Cities for College Basketball fans.

Brace yourself: Lawrence was ranked No. 7.

No. 1 on the list is Chapel Hill, N.C.. Granted, they have a good basketball program there, and will continue to have one — as long as Kansas keeps supplying them coaches.

No. 2 on the list is Los Angeles, which is home to UCLA. You may find this one surprising since I suspect you could go to many a dinner party in L.A. and never have the topic of college basketball come up. But there is an explanation: Bill Walton sent the report’s authors a batch of brownies before they began their work.

No. 3 on the list is Durham, N.C., home to Duke University. This one may be legitimate. They pay their basketball coach $7.3 million, which is roughly equal to the number of points his name is worth in a Scrabble contest.

No. 4. is Bloomington, Ind., home to the University of Indiana. Indeed, it is such a great place for college basketball fans that fans of the University of Indiana get their own special tournament this year called the NIT.

No. 5 is Philadelphia, home to reigning national champion Villanova. Yes, Villanova is in Philadelphia. The Villanova Alumni Association is 95 percent certain of it.

No. 6. is East Lansing, Mich., home to Michigan State. This clearly shouldn’t count. They are measuring only half their community. If Lawrence was only measured by the residents of East Lawrence, we too would be ranked high on all sorts of lists.

So those are the towns that supposedly are better places for college basketball fans than Lawrence. The authors of the report looked at factors such as Division I championships, regular season championships, ticket prices, stadium capacities and other metrics aimed at measuring fan engagement. Evidently no extra points were given for having the gravesite of the founder of basketball, and the original rules of the game. None of it sounds very scientific to me — certainly nothing approaching the science we use to fill out our NCAA tourney brackets.

If for some reason you are interested in seeing the full list, you can do so here.


Tony Peterson 1 year, 3 months ago

Gawd. I'm 55 and can't think of a single person my age or even a decade older who would find the idea of living in a retirement community like this even remotely appealing.

Judy Smith 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm a few months from 70, Tony, and I feel the same. Didn't fully realize how insulting the stereotypes are until I managed to live this long.

Ken Miller 1 year, 3 months ago

Ditto. By the way, it's Indiana University, not the University of Indiana. And it's the tournament of real champions, not the NIT.

Barbara Johnston 1 year, 3 months ago

With $2400-4200/month rent on these luxury apartments, only the wealthy can afford to live there, but there must be a demand for them. The great majority of Lawrence residents, including seniors and disabled, need safe and well-maintained living space, at an affordable rate, and where are these affordable and low-income apartments being built? That's where the real need is.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 3 months ago

Not bad? It works out to $50,400 a year. I used to provide in-home services for an elderly woman and did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, AND drove her to to doctor appointments. The total cost per month was less than $600 and I was there 10-15 hours a week.

Bob Forer 1 year, 3 months ago

Funny, she thinks the price is "not bad" but her attitude to elderly folks who cannot afford health care is essentially "let em die."

Clara Westphal 1 year, 3 months ago

The price is not bad for those with that kind of money but how many people in Lawrence can afford it? It is way out of my budget.

David Holroyd 1 year, 3 months ago

Better hope that when couples move in the widow or widower gets a good pension or inheritance from the dead spouse.

My mother lived briefly at Drury Place and paid $1,700 a month which included one meal. She took lunch. Breakfast was complimentary but to get that one had to dress up. Just whal old folks 87 want to do early in the morning. Get dressed to eat oatmeal, toast or whatever.

Anyway, she was there with couples who had businesses in Lawrence and they had to move because they couldn't afford the place. Mine could!

But upon her death we were told we needed to pay February rent of 2010 because she didn't give 30 day notice of moving. Her move was "death" in the month of January. Like a rental contract, 30 day notice before next rent due date.

Check out the contracts on these places.

One thing for sure. In the next decade there won't be many people moving in who are now 45. And who cares at age 75 plus if the counter top is granite unless they plan to do some hanky panky on it like when they were teenagers.

Ms. Stacy, at age 70 very few are retiring. They are waiting for Rumsey or McElwain to come visit and take them for the long ride. Just look at the obituaries and ages. Only those born between 1900 and the mid 1920s are making it to 90 and beyond.

I just love it when these "retirement' communities boast they are not for profit. Baloney. Look at the salaries of directors. That money comes from profits.

I visited once with folks at Pioneer Ridge to see if they would open up their dining room on Sundays to the public as it would be an opportunity for older folks to have an option to eat and a marketing tool as well. Not to forget the pleasure of those already living there to meet new people. Too much work it was!

The old folks can go to Chick Fil A or Burrito King. Lawrence has NO restaurants catering to an above 65 group.

The people that move in to the "retirement" communities in Lawrence most likely have family in town and want to die near them. End of story.

Michael Dennis 1 year, 3 months ago

Are you telling me that nobody born in 1930 or later has makes it to 90??? Well, I predict that some will three years from now.

Calculators are real cheap nowadays. Might even have one on your smartphone...

Richard Quinlan 1 year, 3 months ago

The same setup , nice apartments with chef level meals , 1400 . a month in mesa , az

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