Updated4/24/2019 5:30 PM
A Downers Grove senior living campus is opening a new health and wellness center as part of a roughly $180 million redevelopment of the 44-acre site near Fairview Avenue and 66th Street.
The new health care building at the Oak Trace community contains a mix of 66 assisted-living apartments, 28 memory-care units and 102 skilled-nursing suites. The amenities also reflect a well-being trend among retirement communities.
Lifespace, the Iowa-based parent company of Oak Trace, has invested more than $79 million in the Health & Wellness Center. The groundbreaking of the 217,466-square-foot building nearly two years ago ushered in the first phase of the campus expansion project.
“This campus will be completely transformed into what we feel is the campus of the future of what people will want to see,” Oak Trace Executive Director Blaire Goldstein said.
Lifespace executives and village leaders gathered this week for an unveiling before Oak Trace residents are set to move out of a 1970s-era health center slated for demolition and into the new building in the next several weeks.
The community was in financial distress when LifeSpace took over the campus in August 2011 and began envisioning a redevelopment, interim President and CEO Larry Smith said.
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“When we acquired it, we knew we had to do something with the existing health center,” Smith said.
The second phase of the project will include the addition of about 150 apartments in a new independent living building. The third phase has not yet been defined, Goldstein said.
“We expect that to start sometime this summer,” she said of the new apartment building expected to open in 2021.
Roughly 20 garden homes, or ranch-style townhouses, were demolished to make way for the new Health & Wellness Center. The independent living dwellings were home to three dozens seniors.
An attorney who represented several of those residents said in 2017 they had reached confidential settlement agreements with Oak Trace. Most of the displaced garden home residents chose to remain at the community.
“Those residents moved into our apartment building or they chose to leave our campus,” Goldstein said.
The new center contains about the same amount of units, but a different distribution.
“We didn’t have assisted living or memory care here in our campus before, so it was really important to add that middle level of living because there’s some people who aren’t really skilled, and they’re not independent either,” Goldstein said. “And so assisted living gives you that option, which is why it was so important to build assisted living here.”
Memory care suites designed for residents with dementia have glass-front “memory boxes” alongside the doors of studio-type apartments. Residents can fill the boxes with family photos or mementos to help them identify their space by familiar objects and not just by apartment number.
The center provides lifestyle and wellness experiences with a library, full-service beauty salon, spa and fitness center. The building also houses an inpatient dialysis center as well as speech, occupational and physical therapies.
“All of our spaces existed, but they are now brand new, much more efficient spaces with large windows and open air,” Goldstein said. “And so it’s just a better design and better layout of those spaces, and they’re bigger, so they accommodate more people.”
Modern hotel-style finishes and open-concept floor plans appeal to the design tastes of today’s seniors.
“We wanted them to be things that you would see in a home or in a hotel,” Goldstein said. “We wanted it to feel like a place people wanted to go versus a place that they had to go.”