Over several decades of renovations, Presbyterian Village North (PVN) in Dallas had become an “architectural hodgepodge.” That all changed with a recent renovation and expansion project.
The more than $52 million project’s main goal was to keep the community’s original character intact as much as possible while updating it with a more cohesive, contemporary design, according to Rockland Berg, principal and owner of Three, the architectural and design firm behind the renovation project at Presbyterian Village North.
Residents already living at PVN prioritized connections to nature and the outdoors, and the designers took that into account when updating the 66-acre campus. Highlights included a newly revamped exterior and courtyard, with many updates to interior common spaces and amenities. Biggest of all, the design featured a five-story, 112-unit independent living building called The Hawthorne.
“[The residents] sat in the foreground of our work,” Berg told Senior Housing News. “They were mindful not only of the additional residents but of how the additions would impact them.”
By literally raising the roof of common spaces, prioritizing natural light and the outdoors and safeguarding the community’s natural environment, The Hawthorne expansion earned the project team a 2022 Senior Housing News Architecture and Design award in the category of best campus renovation.
Planning for the expansion started in about 2018. The project team’s initial goals were to update the community while avoiding radically changing its character as a campus.
While the centerpiece of the project would be a large independent living addition, the design team at Three planned other updates to give the community a contemporary feel. The initial design removed an entrance porte cochere and tower structure to create a new entry point to the community with a more “park-like” nature. The designers also planned improvements to the lake in the middle of the community, such as a new fountain, and prioritized light and access to the outdoors when possible.
“One of the primary things that residents respect and love is their connection to nature in this park-like setting,” said Berg.
The Hawthorne was designed to mesh design concepts from different generations, according to Berg.
“The building gave us the opportunity to architecturally unify 30 to 40 years of architecture that has occurred over the years,” he said. “I’ll call it a transitional style.”
In addition to unifying the PVN aesthetic with the campus’s tallest building, the team at Three also wanted to add outdoor gathering spaces to the community and a sky lounge on the building’s top floor.
The designers also planned to add a new wood-and-steel cantilevered shelter to the community’s “amenity hub” called the Corrigan Building. The design also included a two-sided water-wall backing a private lobby garden and a new guardhouse and entry area with landscaped signage.
Inside the community, designers planned to renovate common areas so they let in plenty of natural light and featured higher ceilings.
“We went into the dining rooms and literally lifted the roof,” Berg said.
To do that, the team used tools called monitors to increase the height of the ceiling so that more natural light could stream through. But, to control the temperature and direct impact of the light, they also included shading devices.
“Here in Texas, it does get bright and warm,” Berg said. “We used a VRF system, which is a state-of-the-art system that gives you the greatest control and actually takes up the least amount of space from an HVAC perspective.”
Andres Construction was responsible for executing the design, and workers began building the project just prior to the outbreak of Covid-19.
One challenge that crews had to contend with early on was the fact that residents still lived onsite. Unlike in a new build, workers had to build the project and keep operations relatively normal for residents.
“You have a construction site that makes dust. It makes noise,” said Berg.
The project team communicated every step of the multi-phase job with residents, who ultimately were appreciative of those efforts, Berg said.
The team on the ground also felt the sting of rising lumber and building material costs.
“We were wrestling with shortages in wood framing because wood had a very dynamic pricing point,” Berg said. “We had to buy quite a bit of wood upfront.”
Other materials in short supply included g electrical switch gears, millwork, cabinetry and appliances.
“Those were pinch points we had to stay in front of,” Berg said.
Like many other operators in senior living during the period, the Covid-19 pandemic impacted how easily the designers and construction crews could work onsite. Zoom and other remote conference technologies helped fill the gap.
“We’re used to working cheeks and elbows together with our building partners,” said Berg. “As soon as we could return… we did.”
The pandemic also impacted the project in other ways, he added. The project team faced an uphill battle in winning certain approvals from local regulators, who were grappling with their own staffing shortages causing a backlog of approvals.
“Getting their attention, getting their approvals on a very complicated renovation and new addition was a lift,” said Berg.
In the end, the project was delivered on time and on budget, according to the project team. Forefront Living officially celebrated the opening of the expansion and newly renovated spaces in the summer of 2022.
Today, the community stands as a testament to careful planning and attention to detail during the design process.
One defining characteristic was the designers’ use of water features. The community has a multi-tiered aquatic display with an aerating spray fountain, with a pond encircled by a walking path and a bridge with outcropping waterfalls and rocks.
The Hawthorne’s 112 independent living units sit atop a parking garage for easy access for residents. Inside the building, the design from Bohacz incorporated elements of the sky with white and blue decor. Residents have access to more than 6,000 books in the building’s on-site library along with nearly 300 movies.
Gathering spaces in the Hawthorne include a solarium with high ceilings, a green wall and wicker furniture providing elements of the outdoors. Outside, there gathering spaces with seating and tables on deck walkways near angular fountains which are lit throughout the night.
Residents of the community can choose among one- and two-bedroom floor plans ranging from about 900 square feet to more than 1,600 square feet.
For Berg, the best measure of success has come from current residents who were allowed to tour the construction as it was nearing its completion.
“It was fun to walk with them and hear them ooh and ahh, and say things like ‘this is so much better than before,’” he said.
The renovation was a much-needed update for the community that will elevate residents’ experience and lifestyle, according to John Cronin, principal of AG Architecture who served as a judge for the award.
In the end, Berg is proud of how the project laid the groundwork for further expansion as the community evolves in future decades. And that is not lost on the residents.
“They own the idea that this is sustainable,” said Berd. “They’re not just thinking about themselves. They are thinking about their future friends moving in.”