Construction Underway

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Front Page / Oct. 6, 2016 11:27am EDT

Independent Living Facility in the Works
By M. D. Drysdale


Willing to lend a hand, Burt Martin of Sharon and Ron Lepenven of Strafford, electricians with Cole Electric of East Thetford, set to work building a job-site safety railing prior to the grading of land to the top of the basement wall at Morgan Orchards Tuesday. Far below, workers with S.D. Ireland Concrete prepare forms for footings on the lower level at the southern end of Gifford’s massive independent living project. (Herald / Bob Eddy) Willing to lend a hand, Burt Martin of Sharon and Ron Lepenven of Strafford, electricians with Cole Electric of East Thetford, set to work building a job-site safety railing prior to the grading of land to the top of the basement wall at Morgan Orchards Tuesday. Far below, workers with S.D. Ireland Concrete prepare forms for footings on the lower level at the southern end of Gifford’s massive independent living project. (Herald / Bob Eddy) Anyone driving to or from Randolph Center over the last few weeks can tell that something big is going on just down the hill from the new Menig Nursing Home.

And indeed it is. Gifford Medical Center has broken ground on its new independent living facility. The first concrete slab was poured last Friday for what will be the first such facility in Orange County. It’s a major construction project, but “perfect weather” over the last months has been a boon, according to Doug Pfohl, Gifford’s director of facilities, who has been working with five major contractors on the project.

The walls will begin to go up in two weeks, he told The Herald this Monday.

“Then it will begin to look like something,” he promised.

The 72,839-square-foot, three-story building, budgeted at $12 million, will include 49 apartments targeted at older couples and single people in the White River Valley who need to downsize their living quarters.

Four Sizes

Apartments will come in four sizes. There will be 23 single-bedroom units of 780 square feet, 6 one-bedroom unit plus a den, at 985 square feet, 19 two-bedroom suites of 1075 square feet, and one studio apartment of 610 square feet.

All in all, the building could house 98 people, if two people live in each unit.

The facility won’t just consist of housing units. In addition, there will be community spaces for dining and arts and crafts, a library with computer access, a fitness area and a woodworking shop, according to Gifford’s Ashley Lincoln, who is in charge of marketing and outreach for the project. There will be a chefprepared meal every evening.

Outside, she said, there will be patios and other gathering spaces, orchards, berry patches and gardens, and a pond.

Much Interest

The independent living facility has already drawn considerable interest among potential residents. Lincoln has compiled a “priority deposit list” for 44 units. Being on the list does not commit the buyer to take a unit, but it establishes the order in which residents will be accepted if they decide to. The “primary deposit” for each unit is $3000.

The majority of those on the list reside in Randolph and nearby towns including Brookfield, Chelsea,

Williamstown and Bethel.

Others on the list are folks from out of state who are looking to “move home where they grew up,” she noted.

Once the building begins to take shape, she guessed, marketing will become easier than just selling an idea.

Those who have signed up are now being contacted again, asking if they would be prepared to move during August of next year. “Some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no,’” Lincoln said. “Some of them have to sell a home first.”

Meanwhile, she is expanding the marketing efforts that will include a website that is nearly complete.

Winter Jobs

The fast start permitted by the good construction weather should be good news to local contractors, Lincoln and Pfohl said. Pfohl expressed optimism that a roof could be put on the building by the time snow flies.

“It will give local contractors jobs all winter, keep a lot of people busy,” Pfohl said.

For Lincoln, a Chelsea native who lives on a farm in East Bethel, there are philosophical and personal reasons for selling these units. She looks forward to providing housing for “a lot of friends and neighbors.”

“These are people we might lose because there’s no place here to downsize,” she explained. “People who can’t deal with maintaining their own house in winter.

“And when you lose people, you’re losing a piece of your history,” she reflected.

Three in All

The independent living facility is the second in Gifford’s planned three-stage project that, when completed, will constitute one of the biggest developments in Randolph’s history.

The Menig Nursing Home was the first of the three, and its 30-person capacity has been completely full from the beginning. There is currently a large waiting list.

The third and final stage is to be an “assisted living” facility, planned to fill the needs of elderly people who do not need a nursing home but are no longer completely independent. It would offer more services than the independent living facility but would not include in-house medical care.

No date has been set for construction of this third stage, Lincoln said. Aspects of the proposed facility will need to pass muster with both state and local regulations, she said.

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