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Does it pay?

The rule in today's competitive market." spend wisely and go for big returns

Frank Lloyd Wright once observed, "The doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines." Maybe so, but ivy can mask only so much. Cost-effective renovation is what's needed to enhance many senior care facilities.

With the cost of renovation rivaling or surpassing new construction--$50 per square foot is not unusual--the goal is to spend wisely. When evaluating a possible project, look for anything that once improved will net a big payoff, suggests Lorraine G. Hiatt, PhD, an environmental psychologist and gerontologist specializing in research, design, development, and planning. "A good renovation can reduce operational costs in the long run," says Hiatt. Renovations can also improve programming and marketing potential.

At a project's outset, says Hiatt, "[We ask] how little can we do? What will make a difference and look good? What would it take to shoot the moon? Then we price all three."

Small but mighty

"A 'paint-and-powder' renovation, done without changes to mechanical systems or moving walls, is fairly inexpensive," notes architect Glen A. Tipton of Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet Architects and Interior Designers (CS&D) in Baltimore.

At Waterman Village, an assisted living community in Mt. Dora, Florida, refurbishment costing under $5,000 transformed several repetitive, dark lounges into inviting program spaces. Notes Hiatt, "They were struggling to convey a correct image to the public regarding their great activity schedule."

The six-week redo turned the old lounges into a "movie house," exercise area, music room, gallery, and massage space. A waiting room became a tea room.

Renovations to grow on

Before moving ahead with plans to expand and build new, many owners opt to renovate older buildings first, bringing them up to current design standards, structurally, and cosmetically. At St. James Place, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, CS&D targeted for improvements a dated assisted living wing. Declining occupancy made renovating before beginning new construction essential to revitalize the property and increase marketability

On an initial construction budget of $500,000, previously unmarketable private residential space became a new entrance with wraparound porch, plus living, dining, and kitchen areas, says Tipton, who worked with local associate architects Bodman Webb Noland & Guidroz and interior designer Diane Tankersley, principal-in-charge at Nashville-based IDA.

And, says Tipton, the renovations effectively convey the message, "Look what's coming." Corridors with new architectural detail, improved lighting, and upgraded finishes, for instance, resemble what's on the drawing boards for the proposed new buildings.

At C.C. Young Retirement Community in Dallas, the process was reversed. Construction of a new assisted living facility on campus led to a "ripple effect" affecting nearly the entire 20-acre campus. The new building made surrounding facilities appear out-of-date, says Dan Cinelli, principal of O'Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi & Peterson Architects in Chicago. "It was no longer acceptable for the seamless effect we wanted."

Initial renovation goals included moving from a traditional medical model to a more residential setting by grouping "households" within "neighborhoods" throughout the community, mirroring the neighborhood concept featured in the assisted living complex, says Cinelli. Inside, OWP&P organized patterns, colors, and other interior effects to create a consistent image for residents moving into higher acuity areas.

Hidden costs

Not all renovations are created equal in their impact on the operating budget. What seems cheap at first might cost you in the long run. At Greencroft, a CCRC in Goshen, Indiana, for example, owners seeking to accommodate new programs first considered a relatively low-cost plan to create new common areas by sacrificing some resident rooms. When management realized that fewer rooms would disrupt budget ratios long-term, however, they decided to renovate existing living quarters--without structural changes--and to build an addition for the needed common space. "We actually built a house and attached it to the nursing home. It has all of the features of an open-plan house," says Dave Fodness, a principal at The Troyer Group, an architectural firm in Mishawaka, Indiana.

The new "homestead" creates an eye-catching gateway to Greencroft and provides adult day services plus a great room, dining area, kitchen, and activity zones for residents.

In any renovation, be sure to look beyond initial project costs to potential long-term operational cost savings due to efficiencies gained. Whether your building needs to be brought in line with current marketing and aesthetic ideals, technology standards, or operational efficiencies, plan your moves carefully Hiatt relies on a hierarchy of needs to determine what improvements should be made. Start with anything not legal or safe, she says, then evaluate what's important: movement of staff, residents, visitors, volunteers; attracting quality staff redefining scale to include home-like dining areas; or increasing access to outside spaces.
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Title Annotation:renovation
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Previous Article:Check it out.
Next Article:The winners' circle.

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