The restaurant staff at Beacon Hill at Eastgate has plenty of experience with area restaurants and almost all of them are products of local culinary education programs. Courtesy Beacon Hill at Eastgate
One of Grand Rapids’ premier continuing care retirement communities is preparing to launch a $30 million expansion of its facilities.
Beacon Hill at Eastgate, 1919 Boston St. SE, Grand Rapids, recently announced plans to break ground next summer on a major expansion plan that could add up to 150,000 square feet of new development, said Jeff Huegli, Beacon Hill’s president and CEO.
This will be the second-largest expansion Beacon Hill has made since opening its doors in 1951, he said.
Beacon Hill is expecting to pay for the project with construction loans from participating banks, namely Huntington Bank, Huegli said.
The plan, which already has received a letter of support from the neighborhood, will go before the Grand Rapids planning commission July 8, Huegli said. Beacon Hill officials expect it will be approved.
The expansion is necessary to keep up with the retirement community’s rapid growth, Huegli said.
“We receive regular inquiries from active seniors who want to enjoy the all-inclusive lifestyle that Beacon Hill offers, but we’re filled to capacity,” he said.
“With this exciting expansion, we’ll be able to accommodate more people and enhance the features that differentiate our community from others — especially the new dining and common areas, as well as the new rehabilitation facilities.”
The expansion involves adding about 100,000 square feet for 50 to 60 independent living apartment homes. The apartments will vary in size and amenities, including units that feature one bedroom, one bedroom and den, two bedrooms, and a deluxe two-bedroom model, he said.
The project also will involve converting all of Beacon Hill’s Mary and Martha Health Care Center’s semi-private suites into private residences, and adding about 15,000 square feet for 15 new private suites for short-term therapy guests. These are people who are receiving rehabilitation for a number of possible scenarios, ranging from hip fractures to a stroke, Huegli said.
The health center expansion also will make room for a therapeutic gym.
Beacon Hills’ expansion project will feature more “common spaces,” encouraging and facilitating more social interaction, which is something that is very important to seniors when deciding where to live, Huegli said.
“What are seniors looking for in a retirement community? Just that. They’re looking for community, by and large. They’re looking for support, which happens through the relationships they build at a place like Beacon Hill.
“We feel that happens best through the dining experience. It allows residents to interact. They will experience the meal.”
In order to foster that interaction, a 10,000-square-foot expansion will include enlarging the current dining room and adding a new dining venue called The Garden Café, which will seat about 30 to 50, he said. The café’s menu will offer fresh dishes from Beacon Hill’s award-winning executive chef, Timothy England, and his professional culinary team, Huegli said.
“It’ll be a destination for residents to come in and enjoy fresh farm food,” he said, adding that much of the food will come from Beacon Hill’s community garden, which probably saves the facility about $110,000 per year in produce costs.
The expansion also will include the addition of a Center for Arts and Worship, a 250-seat auditorium designed for entertainment and worship programs, which also will foster community interaction, Huegli said. He said he hopes eventually a new church plant and local theater groups also will be able to use the auditorium for community events.
“It’s important to respond to the interests of the residents, building things they need,” he said. “The Center for Arts and Worship brings in external resources. … It helps keep the family together.”
The overall project is expected to take about 17 months to complete and, if it gets under way on time next summer, should be finished by fall 2016, Huegli said.
Paul Ryan Design Group, a Dallas-based architectural firm that specializes in designing and planning health care, hospice and senior living facilities, will serve as the project’s architect. Greenbrier Development, a Dallas-based senior living strategic planning firm, will serve as developer. Bridget Bohacz & Associates Inc., a Maryland-based firm that specializes in senior living interior design, will be responsible for the interior design needs.
The work will not interfere with residents’ lives, Huegli said.
“The beautiful thing about this project is, with the exception of the new dining room, all this other stuff is exterior work,” he said. “We won’t have to come inside and disrupt life at all. It’ll be perfectly contained to the construction zones. Our residents shouldn’t have to deal with site work.”
West Michigan’s senior housing industry is deeply rooted in the community, and has a long legacy of care from high-quality providers, Huegli said.
“This is a rich environment where, if I’m a consumer, I’m feeling great for the number of options I’ve got. We’re complementary for so many,” he said.
“We’re all trying to do the same thing by adding low cost for the senior housing community, which is about to radically grow.”
Beacon Hill expects to pre-sell at least 75 percent of the planned residences, and already has had 60 people come forward with refundable deposits, Huegli said. And that’s without any marketing, he added.
“We think the fact that we haven’t had to market to get these 60 people on our waiting list … is a great sign that, once we get into a marketing range, we should see a velocity of sales,” he said.
This isn’t a surprise given Beacon Hill’s successful history with rapid growth. When the community last expanded a few years back, it filled up quickly, Huegli said.
“We opened (approximately 97) units in November 2010, but we blew past all the numbers so quickly that the rest of inventory was released. Over the next two years, we blew by the initial stop measure that the bank put in place. They then authorized us to proceed with the rest of the units,” he said.
“We’ve been at capacity for over a year now. In late spring of 2012, we hit our occupancy mark — a full year ahead of projects. Our sales velocity has been incredibly strong despite being full. We have a long waiting list.”
A main reason for Beacon Hill’s success has been the financial security it provides for its residents, Hueglisaid.
“We deliver economic value through the leveraging of affordable future care of assisted living to residents who decide to move in independently. … They’re able to enter their life lease toward that future level of care,” he said. “It creates a seamless peace of mind.”
A second part of Beacon Hill’s success has been leveraging its location into cost-efficient and convenient living, he said.
“We’re in the middle of a beautiful, high-density urban setting. We’ve established a service model built around dining and service. We integrate our neighbors right into the site,” he said.
“Location is everything. We can literally deliver perfect access to the things that make life normal for anyone who is living in a neighborhood. Community amenities are in walking distance.
“It’s a worry-free environment. It takes all the concerns out and makes the decision pretty easy.”