$16 Million Villas Project Releases Bids; Shovels Hit Ground in August

villasCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Villas at Water Run, a 20-acre senior living complex that includes a 60-bed assisted living building and 31 surrounding villas or homes, released bids last week for the $16 million project near Clarion and expects to see shovels in the ground by the end of August. 

Construction is projected to take 18 to 20 months.

WRC recently received word that the United States Department of Agriculture approved a long-term, low-interest loan of nearly $14 million for the project, allowing WRC to move forward for a project that was conceived about two and a half years ago.

“It’s been a long journey for us at WRC Senior Services,” said WRC CEO Fran Kunhs. “There are a lot of components in doing a project like this. With the announcement from USDA, we can start working pretty quickly to get the shovel in the ground. These are loans that are fixed for a period of 40 years that makes a project of this nature, given the scope of this project, more affordable for us, and we can keep the rates we charge at a reasonable level.”

Located in Monroe Township and accessible from Route 68 on Water Run Road near Computer Support, the Villas will also act as a satellite of WRC’s Laurelbrooke Landing in Brookville.

“This project will be a senior living community,” explained Kuhns. “We want to make available to the seniors who reside there all services and amenities that they might need, so that they can age in the community. The large building on the property will be 60 units of assisted living and personal care and surrounding that large building will be 31 villas or homes.  Assisted care patients can have private suites.”

After completion, the Villas will replace Highland Oaks, a WRC 40-bed personal care community in Shippenville.  WRC opened Highland Oaks in 1988 after the building previously served as an Intermediate Unit headquarters and a hotel.

“The building itself is aging and aging rapidly, and I don’t know how much longer we can sustain that building as it is today,” said Kuhns.

The decision to enter a senior living community where all of their needs are taken care of varies with the individual, but Kuhns said many people make that decision when “they don’t want to be a prisoner in their own home.”

“Some may say ‘I’m 85 years, and I have a really a great life. I’m relatively healthy, and I want to enjoy life. Now, I’ve got to worry about cutting the grass, shoveling the snow, fixing the roof, cleaning the gutters, fixing my dishwasher, or whatever happens’ – and that becomes burdensome,” said Kuhns.

“They make that decision to be in a more carefree environment, and they choose personal care or assisted living. They can live very independently but know that there is someone available 24 hours a day who could support them, if needed.”

Assisted living is a relatively new concept, with Pennsylvania creating the new level of care in 2010.  Prior to the creation, only personal care and skilled care were recognized.  Assisted living allows an individual to choose to “age in community” and obtain all needed care.

“When an individual reaches a certain need level beyond personal care, you have to be discharged to a higher level of care,” said Kuhns.  “In assisted living, that individual consumer will be able to remain in an assisted living community, and there’s no need to discharge to a higher level of care as long as (the) provider can provide the assisted care and services, and the consumer can pay for those services.”

“A lot of people are under the assumption that Medicare or even Medical Assistance will subsidize assisted living, but that is not the case. Assisted Living Care is paid through private pay dollars, so the individual residing there pays out of their pocket. Or, if they’re fortunate to have long term care insurance or some other type of long-term care coverage that will enable them to get some reimbursement.”

Kuhns adds that even though the assisted care unit is primarily private pay, WRC does accommodate those who are unable to pay privately as part of their not-for-profit charity status.

“If an individual comes to us paying privately, and they exhaust their private pay resources and need care and services, we will not ask them to leave our communities,” explained Kuhns.  “We continue to provide their care and services. No one on our staff knows the difference between what is paid us privately versus who might be under our charitable care program.”

WRC, a not-for-profit organization providing senior care and services, was formed after the Civil War in 1883 when the Woman’s Relief Corp formed a volunteer auxiliary to care for disabled Civil War veterans, widows, and orphans of the war. At their annual meeting in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1889, former army nurse Kate Scott proposed that a rest home be opened in Brookville for this purpose. The first community of WRC Senior Services opened the following year.

Since that time, WRC Senior Services has grown to be an integrated family of services, offering skilled and rehabilitative care, residential living, personal care, and home and community-based services at locations in Jefferson, Clarion, and Elk counties.

Laurelbrook Landing vs. Villas at Water Run

“The major difference between the Villas and Laurelbrook Landing is the fact that at Laurelbrook, we have a skilled nursing home,” said Kuhns. “At Water Run, we will not. The people who reside at the Villas at Water Run will have priority access to the nursing home should they need that level of care. For example, for short-term rehab: if somebody needs to have a hip replaced, or a knee replaced, they can reside at Laurelbrooke Landing Nursing Home and get skilled rehab for 30 days or six weeks, and then they can return to the Villas for the rest of their recuperation and continue on with their lives.”


Villas Option

The 31 Villas at the project will require people to pay an entry fee to live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). 

“This means that people will pay an entrance fee to live in a continuing care retirement community, and they will have a certain portion of that entry fee refunded at the point that they leave,” said Kuhns. “They can leave for any reason. They can decide to move away, they decide to do something differently, pass away, or need a higher level of care, and then they get a certain portion of that money refunded to them. In addition, they pay a monthly service fee, and that fee gives them all the services.”


Economic Impact

“This is a significant construction project, and it will provide an economic impact,” said Kuhns. “The construction alone will add a major number of jobs into the community over the next two years for the construction. In addition to the construction, we’re going to add personnel. We’re going to add licensed staff with RNs and LPNs, and we’re going to add caregivers and care partners, along with the cleaning staff and maintenance staff. These are people that in all likelihood will live in Clarion or close to the Clarion community. We’ve talked to Clarion University about educational opportunities for our residents as well as university students who are looking for internships.  We’re going to have a Bisto at the property that will provide dining services for the residents; we’re also hoping to open it up to the public to a degree.  It will offer some age-related healthy dining services.  All of these pieces of the project will bring jobs.”

When The Villas are up and running and fully occupied, there could be 90 people living on the campus, according to Kuhns, and 90 seniors who remain in the Clarion area and will likely shop in local stores.


Challenging Project and Many Helped

Many people helped in getting the project moved ahead to the construction phase later this summer.  A volunteer board of directors decided to proceed with the project and make it successful in forwarding the mission of WRC.

“I really want to reach out and thank our Clarion County Commissioner, State Representative Donna Oberlander, and State Senator Scott Hutchinson,” said Kuhns.  “They were so supportive in helping us every step along the way. Oberlander and Scott Hutchison really went to bat for us at the state and Washington, DC, and helped us secure not only the USDA loan portion of this project but helped get what’s called a RACP Grant for over $1 million. It will help us to do infrastructure development and the roadway in those types of site improvements.”

WRC is celebrating its 125th anniversary in January of 2015, and Kuhns feels projects like the Villas at Water Run will provide a legacy for the next 125 years.

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