As senior living design increases focus on accommodating the preferences of both today’s and tomorrow’s consumer, the days of the “institutional” nursing home are dwindling.
Developers of the Wellbrooke of Westfield, a skilled nursing and assisted living community in Indiana that took top marks in the first-ever Senior Housing Design Awards 2013, realized this paradigm shift and used this awareness to take their community’s design model to the next level, both in terms of physical appearance and care delivery.
While athletics and senior living don’t always go hand-in-hand, the plans for a major development of a sports mega-complex drove the site selection for the facility’s developer, Mainstreet Capital.
Wellbrooke of Westfield’s physical exterior presents the image of an urban lodge, a design rooted in hospitality with hotel-like amenities to accompany it.
“When you walk in there’s an overall sense like you’re in a hotel,” says Tim Wise, senior architectural designer for American Structurepoint, the firm that designed the Wellbrooke of Westfield. “It’s not your mom’s and dad’s assisted living facility.”
Where the city of Westfield in Northern Indiana began its vision of a 360-acre sports complex, Carmel-based Mainstreet Capital saw the need for a nearby senior housing development.
During Fall 2011, the City of Westfield broke ground on Grand Park, its massive multi-sport campus that plays home—upon completion in Spring 2014—to a number outdoor facilities for baseball, softball, soccer, football, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse—and also some nearby senior housing.
One of six communities developed under the Mainstreet’s “Wellbrooke” brand, the Westfield community shares the same mantra as its counterparts: transforming the way care is delivered to residents.
For the Westfield community, that mantra included transforming the idea of a traditional nursing facility—one where seniors receive skilled care in an environment furnished with amenities not typically associated with skilled nursing care.
Multiple dining venues, a fitness center, billiards room and a movie theater are but a few of the leisures readily accessible to residents living at Wellbrooke of Westfield.
“The typical nursing home is about 38 years old,” said Dennis Dechow, vice president of development at Mainstreet Capital. “Indiana is no exception to that.”
Wellbrooke at Westfield follows Mainstreet’s vision to create a skilled nursing and assisted living community that blended both hospitality and healthcare services.
“Baby boomers are demanding the kind of high-end, hospitality-oriented amenities that Wellbrooke of Westfield offers,” said Mainstreet CEO Zeke Turner. “This is a meaningful paradigm shift and just one of the many Centers we are building to transform the industry across the United States.”
The project was born after a meeting with Andy Cook, the city’s mayor and Hamilton County resident for over 20 years.
It was during one of these conversations that Mayor Cook described that the concept for Grand Park would feature the sports complex as a central hub surrounded by a number of commercial businesses.
“The Grand Park project was a way of rebranding the suburb of Westfield, so we thought, ‘Why not work with Westfield and be part of that vision?’” Dechow said. “The idea of transforming the community and care meshed together perfectly for this project.”
Funded with a combination of private equity, construction finance loans and tax increment financing bonds, Mainstreet was ready to break ground on the $13.5 million 100-unit skilled nursing and assisted living facility that would wave the company’s “Wellbrooke” banner.
Since much of the surrounding land for the Wellbrooke facility and adjacent Grand Park project had yet to be developed, the biggest challenge for developers was creating a road system that could enable construction access to the site.
“It being an undeveloped area, the biggest logistical issue was there was physically no road to access the site,” said Rob Bray, senior project manager at American Structurepoint, which served as the architect for the Westfield community.
The road system would also be crucial for Mainstreet’s development timeline, from shovels in the ground to the facility’s grand opening. This meant having several meetings with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
“We had to closely coordinate with the City of Westfield and INDOT,” Dechow said. “It involved a lot of phone calls and face-to-face meetings.”
Topic of discussion during these meetings focused heavily on coordination efforts and timing, such as when certain pieces of construction were going to begin.
Despite the numerous logistical considerations, the Wellbrooke of Westfield was smooth sailing for the most part, suggested Dechow.
“There really weren’t any unknowns,” he said. “We knew how much time we had and didn’t have many project delays.”
On the architectural side, a challenge for American Structurepoint during the construction process was incorporating Mainstreet’s hospitality concept into unit design.
The designs for residents’ rooms were based on having a specific amount of private, semi-private and fully-shared rooms, said Wise.
“There was obviously a challenge in meeting the number of rooms Mainstreet wanted to hit, then it was taking that and using the hospitality notion in these rooms so that the room is not just a blank box,” he said.
The typical skilled nursing room within the facility averages between 260- to 270-square-feet, or 450-square-feet for semi-private rooms, which are mostly geared toward couples, says Bray.
For the community’s assisted living residents, studio apartments are around 320 square feet, while one-bedroom units range between 490- to 500-square-feet.
In some cases, units within the community feature as much as 10 feet of ceiling height, allowing more space for daylight, along with higher-end kitchenettes, wall finishes and flooring that go beyond the standard oak, base paints and cabinetry one would find in a “builder home.”
“It feels like you’re staying in a much better hotel,” says Wise. “There’s also a similar idea that we’re creating a palette for each of these rooms that draws residents in and gives them the sense of a hotel stay.”
Twelve months after beginning construction in May 2012, the community was ready to begin welcoming its first residents.
Wellbrooke of Westfield was completed in June 2013. That same month, Mainstreet sold the newly-built, fully-leased facility to HealthLease Properties Real Estate Trust (TSX: HLP.UN) for $17.9 million. Today, the community is managed by Des Moines, Iowa-based LCS.
The 65,440-square-feet, two-story community provides skilled nursing and rehabilitation services for residents in 70 units and assisted living in the remaining 30 units.
With hospitality at the center of the design concept, one of the cornerstones in drawing up plans for the community was to create an environment that draws residents out of their rooms and into “main street” areas, says Wise.
To enhance the social atmosphere of the community, American Structurepoint created what Wise and Bray refer to as “collision points,” or places that enable residents to run into each other for small talk or even just a brief “hello” in passing.
“What we didn’t want to do was a typical Point A to Point B spin, where a resident goes straight to a rehab appointment and then straight back to their room,” said Bray. “We wanted to create those third points for residents, as well as for visitors and guests.”
Some of these “third spaces” within Wellbrook of Westfield include four dining venues that include a restaurant for traditional dining, a cafe for coffee and snacks, a happy hour pub for pre-dinner drinks as well as a private dining room for special occasions.
The community additionally contains a variety of intimate, cozy seating areas for residents and their families to gather for conversation, or just sit around and take in the community’s surrounding happenings.
Wellbrooke of Westfield also boasts interior amenities, including a big-screen movie theater, full-service hair salon and spa, fitness center, art studio and music room where residents can enjoy the sounds of the community piano.
The idea of these “third spaces” to foster social engagement don’t end at the community’s door, says Wise.
That’s where the community’s outdoor courtyard, walking trail spaces and 20-acre recreation lake that is on deck for development this year come into play—especially the nearby Grand Park.
The Grand Park project, with its numerous multi-sport fields and venues, along with the 1,400 acres of surrounding commercial businesses total an assessed value of $2 billion, according to the City of Westfield’s website.
Proximity to the sports mega-development, developers believe, will not only strengthen Mainstreet’s relationship with the City of Westfield, but will also provide greater opportunities for residents to unpark themselves from the facility’s four-walls and get them back into the neighboring community.
“Older Americans want to stay engaged and part of the communities where they live,” Dechow said. “We prefer to build our communities in the heart of activity where families can connect.”
Written by Jason Oliva