Retirement village plans $60 million expansion

Project will double size of Carroll Lutheran

April 02, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Addressing a demand for senior housing that has left about 250 people on its waiting list, Carroll County's largest retirement community is planning a $60 million expansion that would double the size of its hilltop campus in Westminster.

Carroll Lutheran Village is to formally announce today plans for its 29-acre Wakefield Overlook project, which is to include 82 apartments, 60 houses, a new indoor pool, exercise room, classrooms, a doctor's office, a bistro and a convenience store.

The community has about 500 residents, who come from Carroll County and elsewhere. They live in 48 cottages, 208 apartments spread over two buildings, 50 units of assisted living and 103 nursing beds in the Healthcare Center.

The wait to get into the community ranges from two years to five years, which spurred the staff to come up with an expansion plan to meet that demand.

About 100 people are on a waiting list for Fairhaven, another retirement community in Sykesville that is second to Carroll Lutheran with 400 residents, said Mindy Stewart, director of marketing and communications for Fairhaven's parent corporation, Episcopal Ministries to the Aging Inc. is also planning an expansion.

Expansions of senior housing communities are becoming more common across the nation, said Bruce Rosenthal, director of media relations for the Washington-based American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

"There are three things that are driving the expansion," he said. "We have more folks of a retirement age, more folks remaining active, and due to the economy, they have houses they bought 20 years ago they're selling for a significant amount of money."

Those seeking senior housing are careful shoppers, he said.

"Baby boomers in their 50s are looking for accommodations for their parents, and there's a real interest in choices, and communities are trying to be technologically up-to-date and attractive," Rosenthal said. "It's not only about quality of care, but quality of life.

Most retirement communities started with a health care center, apartments and houses, said Geary K. Milliken, president and chief executive officer of Carroll Lutheran Village. Now, those communities are trying to meet the needs of a more active, older generation.

That's why tennis courts, putting greens and gardens are in Carroll Lutheran's expansion plan, said Roy L. Chiavacci, a vice president of the community and a Westminster councilman who headed the team that worked on the plan.

"It's a little city within the city," he said.

He said the plans call for 345,000 square feet in new buildings to add to the current 416,000 square feet on the 90-acre property.

Five weeks ago, the community sent about 600 people who had toured its facilities invitations to become part of a priority list, the price being a refundable $1,000 check. Milliken said $80,000 has been received.

Hans and DiAnn Baum know about the difficulties of obtaining senior housing. They were on the waiting list at Carroll Lutheran Village for about three years and jumped at the chance to move to the community without waiting for its expansion.

The Rockville resident said she has an affinity for Carroll Lutheran because she was born in Westminster.

"At one time, it seemed like a sleepy Maryland town, but it seems like here lately a much younger generation has moved into Westminster," Baum said. "We liked the fact we were in a small-town environment, a college community, where there were cultural things as well as classes available for us."

Carroll Lutheran will pay for most of the expansion by borrowing money, probably by asking the city of Westminster to back a tax-exempt bond, Milliken said. Fees collected from future residents will offset the cost.

In a program likened by Milliken to prepaid rent, the community acts as a landlord to the residents, who pay an entrance fee that ranges from $80,000 to $200,000 for houses and $48,000 to $194,000 for apartments.

Monthly fees pay for the maintenance of the entire property, in addition to amenities and utilities.

In a financial statement from 2001, the nonprofit organization, which is owned by 27 churches of the Westminster Conference of Lutheran Churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, reported an annual income of $12.5 million.

Apartments will range from 1,000 square feet to 1,800 square feet in two low-rise buildings. The houses are to complement the historical feel of Westminster, with wraparound porches and garages in back. The 60 two-bedroom, two-bath houses range from 1,000 to more than 2,000 square feet, and all will have views of Wakefield Valley.

Starting today, prospective buyers will be able to review plans and designs for the housing. Construction of two model homes is scheduled to begin next month, and they should be ready to show by August. Residents could be moving into the homes by fall 2005.

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