Oaknoll Retirement Community Opens Newest Addition

July 17, 2015

Last month, Iowa City’s Oaknoll Retirement Community opened its Spring Street senior living facility with 70 apartments and a slew of new amenities as part of the largest — and likely the last — addition to its campus at 1 Oaknoll Drive.

New residents have been trickling into their new apartments since they opened June 29 across the street from the main facility, Oaknoll Executive Director Pat Heiden said, and have brought the total number of independent living apartments at the facility to 235.

“Once everyone has moved in, which will be sometime in August, our population will increase by about 110 residents. When everyone arrives there will be over 400 residents, and a staff of almost 200. About 160 of those are full-time staff,” Heiden said. “It’s really grown into a community within the greater Iowa City community.”

Oaknoll offers a seamless transition from independent to assisted living as residents age, Heiden said, as one of six true LifeCare communities in Iowa. In a LifeCare community, residents must be able to live independently and pay an entrance fee when they move in.

Throughout their time at the facility, residents pay a monthly fee that includes their utilities, emergency services, telephone connection and other costs, and when residents begin to need help with basic tasks, Heiden said, they are able to transition to one of the 38 assisted living apartments.

“When someone does need to transition to assisted living or to our health center — which is a registered nursing home — instead of paying for that care, they just continue to pay whatever their monthly apartment fee is. With that entrance fee, they pay in advance for nursing care they may need in the future,” Heiden said.

In addition to the new residential units, crews are putting the finishing touches on a new pub lounge, restaurant, cafe, art studio and exhibition area, community room and meeting rooms that Heiden said will add to the convenience and quality of life provided by the facility. The new development also features a glass skywalk above George Street that connects the new building to the existing campus, and two levels of underground parking.

FORTY-NINE YEARS OF EXPANSION

Mark Seabold, architect with Shive-Hattery, said the firm has been working with Oaknoll for over 20 years and has handled all the major renovations and additions to the facility. Work on the Spring Street addition, a $46 million project, began in 2013 and is the largest to date, Seabold said, and brings the total expansion costs since the mid-1990s to about $80 million.

“We came up with a master plan for all these projects, including logical growth plans for that campus, and this is probably the last major installment at this campus. We’ve been striving to provide a mix of living options throughout the whole campus with a resort-style atmosphere, all centered around an outdoor courtyard,” Seabold said.

The facility first opened in 1966 and at that time offered a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments and a 48-room health care center.

Between 1983 and 1993, 37 two- and three-bedroom apartments were added to the campus, and the health center was renovated. In 1998, the Benton Street East building added 28 more two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Heiden said the last major updates to the campus came in 2004 with the demolition of the old health center and the construction of a new $5 million health center, and again in 2006 with the $25 million George Street Building, which added a swimming pool, wellness center, movie theater and other amenities to the campus.

“I’ve been director here since 1995, and this is by far the largest addition I’ve seen,” Heiden said. “We’re constantly renovating and updating our buildings and facilities to better serve our residents.”

Heiden said there are now over 50 different floor plans available for the apartments, ranging from 375-square-foot efficiencies to two- and three-bedroom apartments with over 1,100 square feet. Heiden said there also are 38 assisted living apartments with staff available 24 hours a day, and the 48-bed health center.

“Whenever we do an addition, we look at the expectations of residents and we consider how we can enhance their quality of life here. That’s what we’ve done with Spring Street. We were conscious of not duplicating the amenities that we had,” Heiden said.

With the addition of about 110 new residents, Heiden said the facility also will add 10 beds to its health center by the end of the year that will be reserved for short-term care.

“Those (new rooms) will be located on the first floor right below the current health center, which occupies the second floor. Those will be reserved for short-term stay for residents who may have been in the hospital and need some additional rehab before they return to their apartments,” Heiden said.

MEETING THE DEMAND FOR SENIOR LIVING

Heiden said the addition of more apartments is an effort to welcome residents who have been placed on a lengthy waiting list in the hope of moving to the community.

“The senior population is growing because people are living longer and healthier, and Iowa City has been listed in a number of publications and journals as one of the top 10 places to retire,” Heiden said. “This is a popular alternative to traditional nursing homes.”

Bob Welsh, chairman of the Johnson County Quality Long-Term Care Committee, said the senior population in the county is growing at a rate that far surpasses county estimates.

“In 2005, the Johnson County Consortium on Successful Aging, of which I was chair, published a market analysis that projected the population of persons over the age of 65 in 2025 to be 13,247,” Welsh said. “According to estimates from the 2010 census, as of 2013 we have already surpassed that number.”

Data from the United States Census Bureau show that the estimated population in Johnson County in 2013 was 139,814 residents, and 9.6 percent, or 13,422 residents, were 65 or older.

“That population is growing at such a high rate because Johnson County is really an ideal place for aging. Oaknoll is a real benefit to Iowa City and the county because it provides an excellent level of service, and people want to live in their own place as long as they can and age in place,” Welsh said.

Oaknoll is currently about 95 percent occupied, Heiden said, and she expects the new amenities to be fully operational by mid-July.

Mary Palmberg, who retired from the University of Iowa provost’s office in 1998, and last year from her position as volunteer coordinator of the Free Lunch Program, plans to move into the new residential development at Oaknoll at the end of August.

“I’ve planned to do that for many years. I’m a big fan of the LifeCare concept,” Palmberg said. “My mother and grandparents all lived at Oaknoll, so I have a long appreciation for the facility.”

Linda Muston and her husband, Ray, moved into their new apartment June 29, and said so far they have been pleased by the community’s offerings.

“It is unique, and it’s a kind of long-term care insurance of sorts. Initially it’s a time of settling in and unpacking, and there are adjustments and things we’re making, but the facilities have exceeded our expectations,” Linda Muston said.

FUTURE EXPANSION OPPORTUNITIES 

Although there may be no additional expansion at the current campus, Heiden said the facility has purchased almost 35 acres of property on the city’s south side and has reserved the parcel for future expansion.

Documents from the Johnson County Assessor’s Office show that in December 2012, Oaknoll purchased the land at 4065 Kitty Lee Road for $620,000. The parcel includes a 7.5-acre, man-made pond, Heiden said, and plenty of green space.

“That was a yearlong process that the board of directors engaged in. We put out a request that we were interested in purchasing a parcel of land of at least 30 acres, and we received 50 inquiries,” Heiden said. “We toured about 10 parcels of land and determined that this parcel of land would suit us well in the future.”

Any developments on the property would be a complement to the current campus, Heiden said, but in a more suburban setting.

“This parcel has the potential to open up the facility to another segment of the population who would be interested in something more suburban. All the possibilities that land entails are pretty exciting,” Heiden said.

Originally posted on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Spring Street Addition is Oaknoll's Largest to Date

Learn more about the Oaknoll Spring Street Senior Living Facility Expansion

Watch The Future of Senior Living at Oaknoll video

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