Island retreat draws elderly 'Continuing care' community opens on Solomons

Riverfront development

Even before debut, almost all apartments had been reserved

September 29, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

On a stretch of picturesque waterfront on the Patuxent River, the Asbury Solomons Island retirement community opens this week, the latest in a series of developments transforming the once-sleepy tip of Calvert County.

Even before the community's official grand opening Thursday, nearly all the 142 apartments in the four-story riverfront building had been reserved and all but 12 of 66 clustered cottages sold.

The new "continuing care" community, which also offers a 42-bed nursing home and community center, comes amid profound changes in one of Maryland's fastest-growing areas.

In recent years, Solomons and its environs, long known for oyster-shucking sheds, boatyards and fishing shanties, have attracted record numbers of pleasure boaters, day trippers and suburbanites.

Today, visitors can stroll a newly built boardwalk along the river. They can stay in one of the increasing number of bed-and-breakfast inns, eat at restaurants that have remodeled or added exterior decks, or tour the river and bay on a new dinner boat.

"I think that Solomons is starting to become known as a tourist destination," said Herman Schieke, a tourism specialist in Calvert County's Department of Economic Development. "It's the quaintness, the quietness, the water."

Now, the development spurt that brought in condos and gift shops has extended its reach to retirees and empty-nesters seeking a pampered life with a view.

Mary Lou Breland, a longtime Solomons area resident, didn't have to go far to find what she was looking for.

"I can't believe our luck. I didn't have to leave my water views," said Breland, who sold her house to move to Asbury Solomons Island.

The first 100 of an anticipated 422 residents began moving in last week, discovering their waterfront dining room, private beach and fishing pier, community center with billiards and exercise rooms.

Some, anticipating the opening, had already sold their homes and were living nearby in RVs or boats, said Karen Hodge, Asbury's marketing director.

As a continuing-care community, Asbury Solomons offers independent and assisted living.

Breland, 76, who raised her family and worked in real estate in the area where she's lived nearly five decades, moved in Sept. 21, leaving the home she and her late husband built on the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1980s.

"It was the right size for the two of us, then for me alone, except that you get older," she said.

At Asbury, she said, she's found a worry-free, pampered life. In bad weather, she won't need to venture outside from her apartment to the dining room.

She can join -- and help organize -- activities.

And help for her -- if she needs it -- will be nearby.

The operators of Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, also a continuing-care community, saw an unmet need for housing for the elderly in Solomons. Three years ago, they purchased the riverfront parcel originally planned for the expansion of a nearby townhouse development, Hodge said.

Connected to the H-shaped apartment building is a separate building containing a 30-person, assisted-living wing, where residents have private living rooms and bedrooms and a communal dining room. A 42-bed nursing center is expected to open within the next few weeks.

Residents pay entrance fees, ranging from $58,000 to $181,500, which become nonrefundable gradually over a period of five years, as well as a monthly service charge. Some units carry higher entrance fees that are 90 percent refundable.

About half the residents are local, from Charles, Calvert, St. Mary's and Anne Arundel counties. Others are moving from as far away as Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York.

The retirement community is the latest change on an island transforming into a boating and tourism center by capitalizing on its natural beauty and waterways. One of the area's main attractions, the Calvert Marine Museum, has seen steady increases in visitors that numbered 60,000 last year, said director Doug Alves. Just a mile away from the new retirement community, the museum is counting on its new neighbors as a source of volunteers, he said.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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