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Forward-Looking Design For Senior Living

Environment for Aging

April 15th 2015

It's not always easy to judge unbuilt projects in a competition like the EFA Design Showcase, because the contenders are at different stages of development and-as we all know too well-change happens. Will the final community look anything like the rose-colored sketches and renderings?

A well-researched and detailed submission with lots of intelligent reasoning and images is key, but there's also a strong element of hope at play. An unbuilt project holds promise for something really different, something exciting.

This year's jurors saw plenty of promise in two particular projects: Rose Villa Pocket Neighborhoods and Town Center (Portland, Ore.) and the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center (Dallas). While very different kinds of communities, these projects share an exceptional appreciation of the outdoors and a strong sense of shared experience with other residents, staff, and the surrounding neighborhood.

Rose Villa, a joint effort between RLPS Architects (Lancaster, Pa.) and Myhre Group Architects (Portland, Ore.), is scheduled for completion in June 2016. The project is the reimagining of a 55-year-old garden community of 263 independent living apartments that was losing market share. Situated on a steep 22-acre hillside, the site is being restructured as a series of pocket neighborhoods-each one composed of seven cottage homes surrounding a courtyard-with a Main Street and town center up the hill that includes loft apartments. The design incorporates an "over-under" cottage plan to take advantage of the grade, where one floor of cottages sits atop another without sacrificing natural light for anyone or compromising the small community setup.

"The stepped pocket neighborhoods allow all the organizing gardens to be level while still interconnected through accessible walkways," explains Craig Kimmel, partner with RLPS. The walkways are sized to accommodate golf carts, he adds, allowing Rose Villa to continue its current "taxi service."

The Design Showcase jury appreciated the challenge of the site planning. "It was a tough site to redevelop and they did an excellent job of integrating the hillside and landscaping into something useful and pleasant," one juror says. "The sidewalks encourage walking and exercise and one can only imagine the great views from the hillside."

For the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center, views and nature access were also a top priority. Every unit in the 36-bed inpatient care center has a view of the site's existing 5-acre lake. Even better, a large balcony accommodates the patient's double bed for every unit, as well.

The total site covers 9.7 acres and includes the inpatient center and an educational resource center for on-site and home hospice care workers, providing workspace and supplies for daily needs as well as a group training room and full-size patient room mock-up. There's also an outdoor reflection center on the property, with specially designed gardens, walking paths, and a labyrinth. It's worth noting that two separate submissions for this project-one from PRDG (Dallas) for the hospice and educational center, and one from MESA (Dallas), the project's landscape architect-were singled out by the jury for Awards of Merit.

"I believe this project is going to be a model for all other hospice facilities," one juror says. "The deep and rich connections with nature are unparalleled." T. Boone Pickens Hospice broke ground in January 2015 and is anticipated to be complete in fall 2016.