A retirement home for veterans

June 19, 2005|By Christina Hernandez | Christina Hernandez,SUN STAFF

A view of the water, a fitness center, a live performance theater and a history museum all in one live-in community.

Retirement doesn't sound half bad.

Within the next decade, military veterans in Baltimore County will have a community of their own, Bayside of Fort Howard, on the campus of the former Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center at the county's southeastern tip.

The veteran-focused retirement community will consist of four "villages" designed for different stages of living, said John Insantino, chief executive of Federal Development, the company working on the project. Each of the villages will be designed with distinct characteristics and amenities.

"It's designed so at age 55, residents can come in and plan to spend the next 50 years here," he said.

A combination of single-family and apartment-style housing will be available to independent seniors for prices ranging from $700 to $4,000 a month, Insantino said, depending on the type of housing.

Active senior living, independent living, assisted living and a nursing-home-like living space will be available, Insantino said.

The community, with views of the Chesapeake Bay and the Patapsco River, will include a marina; a health, fitness and wellness center; a restored historic museum; a theater for live performances; a senior resource center; a new health clinic and restaurants, Insantino said.

The campus will also feature an environmental ecology education facility where seniors and young students can work together to learn about the bay and its environmental conditions.

In an effort to foster a connection between Bayside residents and the community, a series of walking trails will be created along the waterfront, and outdoor concerts will be presented for community residents and visitors, Insantino said.

If the lease is signed this month, as planned, construction on the community could start by late fall or early winter, Insantino said. The project will be completed in about five phases over 10 years.

"It is designed to be built in a very slow manner, to be sensitive to the surrounding area where we're building," he said.

The name Bayside of Fort Howard was derived from the waterfront location of the facility, Insantino said, as well as a desire to maintain a part of the history of Fort Howard.

The historic Fort Howard campus dates to the 1800s, when it was established as a Department of Defense facility during the Spanish-American War, Insantino said. Gen. Douglas MacArthur once lived and worked there.

"It's alive with lots of rich history of veterans and defending our country," Insantino said.

Insantino said about 70 percent of the historic structures within the campus will remain after construction.

R. David Edwards, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, said the new community will be formed mostly from renovations of older, existing buildings.

"We felt that land was kind of sacred," he said. "We wanted to keep it for serving veterans."

Veterans will be able to reserve housing at Bayside first, but leftover space will be available to other Baltimore County seniors. Unlike most retirement communities, Edwards said, veterans will not have to "buy in" in order to live in Bayside.

"Retirement communities are usually very expensive," he said. "They're not always accessible to a wide range of people."

A Web site for information on the facility (baysideft howard.com) is expected to be operational this summer.

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