By Mark Rowh
From the November/December 2014 issue
The commitment to making things pleasant is more than just words at Pleasant View, a continuing care retirement community in Ottawa, IL. With a three building combination of renovation and new construction, the facility has been upgraded to improve the living experience for continuing residents while also enhancing its attractiveness to newcomers.
Owned by Lutheran Life Communities, Pleasant View supports both independent and assisted living. Facilities also serve residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related conditions, as well as providing short-term rehabilitation and long-term care services.
The facility upgrades took place over several years. During that time, while planners faced challenges in avoiding disruptions to residents and neighbors, they never lost sight of the ultimate goal of contributing to the overall quality of the facilities.
“Our goal was to continue continuity of care while adding assistive living options,” says Becky Cattani, Pleasant View’s executive director. She notes that the expansion distinguished the facility from many other providers in the region, many of which do not have licensed assisted living programs.
“It has added one more element to the continuum of care,” she says. “This will allow us to meet the needs of those requiring minimal assistance as well as those needing an enhanced level of care.”
Of course safety was also a major consideration, according to Chris Sherman, Pleasant View’s facilities director.
“Working with the Hearthstone addition we were faced with multiple safety concerns as the new facility was constructed,” he says. “Maintaining egress and following all required standards was a challenge that required constant communication with all parties involved to assure strategies planned were clear and safety a priority.”
Master Plan, Multi-Phase
The work was performed by Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc., located in Appleton, WI, beginning in 2006 with a master planning effort for the entire campus. After an existing facility assessment, design, engineering, and financing process, actual construction began in 2010 with the end result being an 81,000 square foot project completed in 2013.
With the project completed in phases, an ongoing challenge faced by the project team, as well as Pleasant View staff, was keeping the facility open and operational during all phases of the construction.
One of the first areas addressed was renovating the existing Health Care Pavilion, a facility providing 24-hour nursing care where residents enjoy private suites with private bathrooms. Improvements included mechanical and electrical system replacements along with building envelope replacements. Also undertaken: Right-sizing the facility from semi-private rooms to mostly private rooms, and splitting one floor, previously considered a single neighborhood or community, into two.
Construction began the same year on the Hearthstone building, a new assisted living facility that provides services such as medication management, bathing, or dressing while fostering an independent lifestyle for residents. With 24 units, family activity rooms, living rooms and lounges, a dining space, and resident laundry space, the facility added 24,000 square feet to the complex when it opened in 2011.
A third phase undertaken in 2012-13, the Village Square addition, included a chapel, “main street space” with library, bistro and beauty spa, administrative spaces, and an attractive main entrance. Then last year, Hoffman complemented the previous work with a 15,000 square foot, 17 unit addition to the Hearthstone facility. This addition connects to the Pavilion skilled nursing care facility.
Challenges At Hand
Obviously a requirement for the new facilities was being built to code with sprinklers, alarms, and other safety features, Cattani says. But at the same time, a primary goal was providing a state-of-the-art facility that supported a home-like environment and allowed residents to remain active.
This included adding a clubroom and a dining room. Especially well received have been fireplaces in a library area and lobby. “Both are favorite gathering places regardless of the time of year,” she says.
A more fundamental need was addressing the special needs of a senior population, most notably accessibility. “Let’s assist them through the design and still preserve their sense of independence,” recalls Hoffman’s Kevin Madalinski of the company’s guiding objective for the project.
This included measures such as swinging doors with clear access paths, accessible fixtures in bathrooms, and windows with lower sills than typical construction so chair-bound residents can readily view the outside. For similar reasons, power outlets were placed at 24″ heights instead of 18″.
In what might sometimes be overlooked with a retired population, parking was also a consideration. Since some residents still own and drive cars, yet may not be up to walking longer distances, allowing for parking adjacent to entrances was a necessary consideration. As a solution, the design included several entrances that provide easy access to parking areas.
During construction, another challenge was minimizing noise and other disruptions. “A key step to minimize disturbance was to create and move entrances for delivery locations on campus at different periods of construction,” Madalinski says. Also, staff held regular meetings with residents to let them voice concerns about noise, dust, or other problems.
Some current residents were concerned about what they would see out their windows, Cattani recalls. “So we strategized and developed a beautiful courtyard and some gardens,” she explains. Staff also distributed flyers and took the initiative in updating residents about construction progress and how they might be affected.
“Becky and her team did a phenomenal job of communication,” Madalinski says. He recalls that along with keeping residents informed, this included speaking with local homeowners since the facilities are located in a residential area. “They would reach out to the neighborhood and host meetings to let them know what to expect,” he adds.
Sherman adds that communication among those most directly involved with the project was also imperative. “A reliable event that occurred daily or as needed was the communication that I had with the site superintendent,” he says. “The relationship built between the facilities director and site superintendent can easily make the various interruptions to the building flow much more efficiently.”
While staff members have been pleased with the progress, it has been the facility’s residential population that has benefitted most from the improvements, according to Cattani. She says a memorable moment occurred when some residents who had previously been in another section first viewed the new facility where they would be residing. “They realized they were graduating to a higher level of care,” she says. “They were ecstatic. It was very moving.”
Rowh is a Virginia-based freelancer who writes frequently on topics related to business operations and facilities management.