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Portland retirement community revamps for baby boomers

Daily Journal of Commerce

July 26th 2013

Rose Villa, a Southeast Portland retirement community, is planning a $30 million transformation that targets the baby boom generation.

"For a lot of them, senior housing is not in their vocabularies," said Bob Boileau, a principal with Portland's Myhre Group Architects, which collaborated on the project with Lancaster, Pa.-based RLPS Architects. "I coined the term 'boomer housing.'"

The project will revamp the center of the 22-acre Rose Villa campus off Southeast River Road to give it a neighborhood feel, make it more pedestrian-friendly and add more open space, Boileau said.

Apartment buildings constructed in 1960s will be torn down and replaced with 77 new units, he said. The residences will be divided between cottages and urban-style apartments in two mixed-use buildings also containing various amenities, including a fitness center, dining area and cafe.

The mixed-use buildings will be located across from each other on a main street with a town square that can be closed to car traffic for farmer's markets and other events, Boileau said. The cottages will be built on a slope directly below the town square, he said.

"I often joke we're going to give Rose Villa a heart, lung, kidney transplant," Boileau said. "It's putting a new face to Rose Villa. It's really looking where the baby boomers are going. Ther're a lot more mobile, a lot more independent and they don't want to be tied down."

Construction is scheduled to begin early next year and wrap up in 2015.

The project is the first phase in plans to remodel the entire retirement community by 2020, Rose Villa CEO Vassar Byrd said.

Rose Villa currently has 230 residents, but when the remodel is complete it will accommodate 350, she said.

The retirement community stopped selling apartments in the center of the campus in anticipation of construction and relocated about 20 households, Byrd said.

"All the residents here are super excited about making (Rose Villa) prettier and greener and easier to navigate," she said.

Byrd said Rose Villa has long planned to reinvent itself.

"I just really thought we're going to have to rethink this property to make it more true to our residents," Byrd said. "The kind of people we get are very independent."

The project will give Rose Villa residents access to amenities on the bottom floors of the two mixed- use buildings, Boileau said. Apartments will be built on the upper stories.

One of the mixed-use buildings will be three stories. The other will wrap around Rose Villa's existing commons building and be half two-story and half three-story.

For seniors who prefer the feel of a residential neighborhood, Rose Villa will build three cottage-style duplexes and seven fiveplexes overlooking the Willamette River, Boileau said.

Byrd said there's been equal interest for the apartments in the mixed-use buildings as for those in the cottages.

"It's nice to offer something for people who want to be where the action is and be downtown," she said.

The project will make it easier to navigate Rose Villa on foot, Boileau said. When work is complete, Rose Villa residents will be able to use a series of walking paths that wind between the cottages through a central green area or visit a park or community garden, Boileau. An auditorium will have garage doors that open towards a lawn for outdoor seating.

"In this community, it's about staying fit and active," Boileau said.

Byrd said walkability is especially important to retiring baby boomers seeking homes at Rose Villa. "The whole health benefits of walking that's been very apparent in the younger residents moving in," she said.

The main street and town square area will cater most to walkers, Boileau said.

"The number one citizen is the pedestrian," he said. "Most of the people are walking, they're not driving around. It's a place where you can walk. People flock to it."

Plans will also include adding more than one entry point into Rose Villa, Boileau said.

"We're trying to make it less suburban-like," he said. "A true neighborhood has several ways in and out."

Byrd said she's hopeful that by creating a mini neighborhood the project will build a sense of community.

"I am so excited about what we're doing," she said. "It's still really common for people to think of senior living as a nursing home. It's so much more like a country club or a college campus."