Retirement community plans for future with expansion

If the development plan receives zoning approval on Monday, Aug. 25, four buildings that serve as residences on the campus of the Charlestown Retirement Community will be razed and replaced with two updated buildings along with a parking lot expansion.

The construction will cost approximately $70 million, with the first of the two development phases to cost approximately $40 million, said Clara Parker, executive director of retirement community on Maiden Choice Lane.

The new buildings will be located on the west side of the campus and will provide 87 short-term rehabilitation and long term care units, 114 assisted living plus memory care units and 96 assisted living units to a total of 321 residents, according to the development plan.

The 297 units will accommodate 321 residents and replace a total of 320 rooms with a capacity for 331 residents, the plan said.

"The country is seeing a significant change with seniors not needing long-term care," Parker said. "More memory care is needed, so we're trying to adjust our model to meet those needs."

"For us, this is really exciting because we don't have memory care," Parker said.

Parker said the need has grown for memory care as a result of people living longer. Those longer lifespans often mean increased number of cases of dementia, a category of brain diseases in which the patient suffers a decline in mental ability that impacts daily life. Those with Alzheimer's Disease, for example, are considered in that category.

The four buildings to be demolished are 27 years old, approximately three years after the retirement community was built.

Those four were constructed at a time when the company's facilities were "relatively institutional" in appearance, Parker said.

The two new residences will offer modern amenities such as higher ceilings, granite counter tops and cherry cabinets, Parker said.

In comparison to rooms that are now 190 square feet, those in the new facilities will be between 300 and 600 square feet, she said.

Meal service will be much more customized with pantry kitchens, where residents will be able to gain guided access to the kitchen if they want a late night snack, Parker said.

"We're expanding access to promote independence among residents," Parker said.

The construction will not increase monthly fees paid by current members, Parker said.

Charlestown has plans to relocate residents throughout the construction process so that residents won't have to live in a construction environment, Parker said.

"Phasing and design is focused on putting residents' needs first," said Tim Barnhill, principal at Hord Coplan Macht Inc., the architecture firm designing the project.

It is expected that 95 parking spaces will be added to a parking lot next to the buildings, according to the plan.

The new buildings are to be erected on the west side of the property near Maiden Choice Lane, near property owned by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The organization hasn't been working closely with Charlestown and can't comment on the project, said Sister Constance Carolyn, a spokeswoman for Little Sisters of the Poor.

Because the Charlestown property is near the Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church on Maiden Choice Lane, which contains historic buildings, Charlestown must receive approval from the Maryland Historical Trust to make any changes to the exterior of their buildings, Parker said.

Amy Skinner, administrator of the Historic Preservation Easement Program at the Maryland Historical Trust, said that the organization submitted its approval of the Charlestown plan, contingent upon a "vegetative screening" of plants and landscaping that will serve as a barrier around the proposed parking lot area.

It has the support of the nearby neighborhood of Kensington, as it won't have much of an impact on the small community, said Frank Ruehl, president of the Kensington Improvement Association.

"They presented the plan to us a couple of times, and I attended a meeting over there," Ruehl said. "It's located on their property and far enough away that it won't really affect us."

Construction is expected to begin November 2014, with the final site work to be complete in July 2019.

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