Best of Assisted Living Design 2013: New Construction Meets Historic Surroundings


For Waterstone at Wellesley, the new construction assisted living community was always blessed by its outstanding, riverside location. But in catching the eye of the Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Awards for 2013, Waterstone has much more to offer than simply its Charles River-based locale.

Its cutting edge amenities and location led to Waterstone’s top marks in the best of assisted living design in 2013.

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The Concept

The new construction “urban-suburban” community is located on the banks of the Charles River in the Boston metropolitan area. While residents enjoy river views and walking paths, they are also a stone’s throw from local commerce and one of the Boston area’s  renown hospitals, Newton-Wellesley.

“If you sit in the back courtyard, it feels like you are on the Charles River,” says Executive Director Kristine Tilton. “But also, residents can walk to [Wellesley’s] Washington Street where there are stores, shops and restaurants.”

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Among the Epoch Senior Living network, the 207,742 square-foot community includes 134 apartments: 52 assisted living and 82 independent living.

The community was designed largely around its surroundings and to cater to the population of the old Massachusetts town, and those nearby.

“Waterstone at Wellesley was a stand-out for me because of its location and design in context with its location and history,” says Elisabeth Borden, principal at The Highland Group and one of the judges in the 2013 SHN architecture and design awards. “Location is so important to allow assisted living residents to remain part of their communities.”

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The Construction

Once Waterstone at Wellesley had broken ground, it took roughly 15 months to complete construction. Epoch Senior Living along with National Development and Charles River Realty Investors worked with Elkus Manfredi Architects and Cranshaw Construction of Newton, Mass. to complete the project in May 2012.

But the community site had a history of its own, which also played a role in—and challenge to—the construction. As former home to a longtime hardware store tenant, the site had become something of a landmark itself, occupied by the abandoned storefront for many years prior to the new construction.

The site had since been vacant for 19 years, largely due to legal battles with the community and abutting property owners. The developer was able to negotiate for the fee interest to the property and buy out a lease from a retailer that was unable to build on it.

Additionally, construction involved moving the town’s major sewer interceptor and building along sensitive resources areas of the Charles River.

But the project was completed within budget, and successfully incorporated into the site and surrounding area.

“This senior residence was designed with great care and attention to detail to insure that it blended in with and became part of the surrounding community. It preserves the look and feel of its historic neighbors, from the stonework to the siding,” its owners said.

Having met the challenges introduced by the site itself, the historic feel of the neighborhood and the natural resources adjacent to the property was no small feat.

“So often, senior housing developers have selected sites on the edges of the suburbs, effectively isolating residents,” Borden says. “Other times, developers have simply dropped prototype buildings into every site, with little regard for the context of the neighborhood. Waterstone at Wellesley was carefully located in an historic location along the Charles River, with walking paths along its banks. Epoch took great care to ensure it was just the right fit with neighboring properties, both outside and inside.”

The Completion

The community opened on the date that had been planned, with some early residents taking advantage of special rates for early commitments.

Now 100% occupied and running a wait list on the independent living units, Waterstone at Wellesley offers state-of-the-art amenities including a wellness center, heated pool, library, theater, card room, pub, private wine lockers and a demonstration kitchen. Interior design represents the Arts and Crafts style to emphasize a “homey warmth and solidity.”

Outdoors, residents can access a large landscaped patio area, walking paths, a fire pit, gardens, and a putting green. Underground heated parking is available to all residents.

“I’m very impressed with the quality of interior architecture, particularly the large windows throughout and the look and feel of the craftsman design and furnishings,” Borden says. “The swimming pool with its warm wood ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows is a knock-out. The outdoor spaces are well planned and extensive, with great amenities.”

Some of the most enjoyed perks, Tilton says: fitness offerings, daily transportation within a 12 mile radius, and screened-in riverview patios for all units.

“The fitness center is packed,” she says. “The residents are very happy and having a good time.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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