Pair of senior housing plans filed at City Hall, including large project near Rock Chalk Park
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Maybe it should be no surprise that in 2020, where one month feels like one year, Lawrence is seeing some new projects geared toward an aging population. Plans have been filed at City Hall for two new living communities that focus on serving seniors.
The first is an expansion of an existing west Lawrence memory care center. Bridge Haven has filed plans to construct its fourth new building at its location at 1701 Research Park Drive, just a bit south and west of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.
The new building will add 12 bedrooms to Bridge Haven’s capacity, bringing its total to 48. The company has had multiple expansions on the site since 2010, said CEO and owner Robert Wilson. He said the company is moving ahead with this one as demand continues to be strong for services related to caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other memory-related illnesses.
“We are full and usually have a waiting list,” he said.
The company got its start by buying executive homes and retrofitting them into care facilities, Wilson said. Recognizing what patients were looking for in a care facility has been a key to the company’s growth.
“These are people who don’t need a hospital setting,” Wilson said. “They need and want a home-like setting.”
Eventually, the company shifted strategies to begin constructing buildings from scratch but designing them in a way to be more like individual residences than like a nursing home or traditional care facility.
Sarah Randolph, executive director at Bridge Haven, said each 12-bedroom building at Bridge Haven has its own “house manager,” plus about 20 staff members to serve the 12 residents. The buildings also include group living rooms, dining rooms and a commercial kitchen where meals are prepared based on the preferences of the dozen people living in that particular building.
“One day last week I walked through all the buildings, and there were burgers on the grill at one house, fried chicken at another, and a seafood, rice dish at the other house,” Randolph said.
She said the idea of treating each building as its own separate unit is an important concept in providing care to residents — primarily people needing care for memory-related illnesses but also some residents who have Parkinson’s disease and other such conditions. Randolph said the structure makes it much easier to provide individualized care than if it was provided in one large facility.
“This really allows us to picture it more like one big, busy family,” Randolph said. “They aren’t in their rooms all day. They are out eating meals together, exercising together, spending time together.”
There is no firm timeline on when construction will begin on the new building. The project requires a special use permit from City Hall. Wilson said he is working with city planners to preserve some existing trees on the site and other such design issues. Wilson said this building likely would be the final expansion that is feasible on the existing property.
You may remember that Wilson was slated to be the developer of another west Lawrence project we wrote about a little more than two years ago. That project called for about a dozen duplexes or “patio homes,” to be built on the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Queens Road. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is the hilltop property that includes an old farmhouse that has kind of become surrounded by the city over the years.
Well, Wilson has confirmed what has become obvious — that project is not moving forward as planned. He said rising construction costs made the patio home project less feasible. While the property does have a “for sale” sign on it, Wilson said he still owns it, and he does have some plans he’s working on developing for the site. He said he couldn’t yet share those plans, though.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World File Photo
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The second senior living project to come through City Hall recently is bigger, but also a bit more speculative. Plans have been filed for a 134-unit apartment complex for seniors in far west Lawrence.
New York-based Calamar Construction has filed plans to build the complex for people 55 and older at the southeast corner of Overland Drive and George Williams Way, which puts it in the developing area near Rock Chalk Park.
I’m listing this project still in the speculative phase, in part, because it will need to win some rezoning approval from the city. The property at 5851 Overland Drive already is zoned for multifamily development. However, Calamar is asking for the density levels to be increased from about 12 living units per acre to about 15 units per living acre. Sometimes those types of rezoning requests go through easy, and sometimes they don’t. I’ve got a call into the developer, but I haven’t yet heard back.
As for what the project would look like, Calamar did file a concept plan with the city. It shows one large building that would house 43 one-bedroom apartments and 91 two-bedroom apartments. In addition to a large parking lot, the perimeter of the property would include small garages for about 50 units, according to the concept plan.
Calamar has been pretty active in building complexes in the area that are geared to the senior market or empty nesters.The Grand Estates on Greenwood is up and operating in Olathe, while the company has similar projects under construction in Shawnee, Topeka and Wichita. All the properties advertise maintenance-free living and events and programming for people 55 and older.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo