Village Center follows in founders’ footpath
BLACKSBURG — Construction on Warm Hearth Village’s new community center began a little more than a year ago, and residents have been eagerly awaiting the opening of The Village Center.
Warm Hearth Village’s Director of Marketing and Development Tambra Meredith said construction is on-schedule and should be completed in December with an early 2013 grand-opening date.
The Village Center will serve as Warm Hearth Village’s new welcome center for prospective residents and their families, as well as an activities center for current residents, Meredith said.
The center will be split into sections, or zones. When residents and guests enter the building, they will be greeted by the welcome center, which will eventually be staffed by resident volunteers, Meredith added.
“You’ll start there, and hopefully you’ll get a good sense of what the community is about and the amenities we offer,” Meredith said. “Then, depending on the area of the village you or your family is interested in, we’ll take you out there and give you a tour.”
To the left of the welcome area will be a large, open community room with a stage, lighting and sound equipment able to host various performances. The room will be able to seat 150 residents at tables and likely double that in chairs alone, Meredith said.
The village’s current community room, Meredith said, seats about 100 people, and isn’t nearly large enough for Warm Hearth’s more than 500 residents.
“We’re hoping to forge a relationship with the theater community because they tell us they don’t really have a lot of places to perform,” Meredith said. “We’ve tried to make connections as we’ve built this building, and we’re trying to meet needs while teaming up with the community to fulfill those needs.”
Just beyond the welcome area and community room, the center will also have a cafe for grab-and-go type meals for residents and their families. Beside the cafe, residents can enjoy a smaller activity room, a lounge area and access to a patio where they can enjoy their meals.
On the opposite end of the building, residents will have a space for fitness and wellness that includes a complete workout facility, as well as a saltwater pool that will host water aerobics and aquatic therapy.
“It’s an indoor saltwater pool, which is really nice for older bodies because it’s a little more forgiving, and the warm water is nice and therapeutic for exercising and swimming,” Meredith said. “A lot of new pools are moving towards that so we did some research, and it looked like the way to go.”
But while the center offers the Warm Hearth community plenty of amenities and a nice, new face, it comes with a hefty price tag at $4.5 million.
Warm Hearth has taken a multi-faceted approach to garnering the funds needed for The Village Center, including using proceeds from home sales, tax credits, cash reserves, a low-interest loan and raising funds throughout the community with a “capital campaign.”
“We’ve really done well with the support of the community,” Meredith said. “It was a real grassroots effort from the start, and we’ve really seen this capital campaign for the Village Center kind of mirror that with community members stepping up to support us and our own residents taking an active role.”
As of Thursday, the village has raised 90.5 percent, or $1,357,654, of its $1.5 million goal. The campaign will conclude in December, Meredith said.
Currently, Warm Hearth Village is in the process of refinancing a tax-exempt bond they acquired in 1999 for the building of the Kroontje Center, said President and CEO Ferne Moschella.
“We’re heavily invested in real estate, and in this interest rate environment, you’d be a fool not to look at it,” Moschella said. “It has nothing to do with the timing of The Village Center at all.”
Moschella said the timing was merely “coincidental” and said looking to refinance the bond was standard business practice to look at an opportunity to save money.
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However, Warm Hearth does plan to save a little “green” in more ways than one. The center boasts many environment-friendly features throughout.
Project Manager Sara McCarter said architect Mark McConnel of Summit Studio has designed several green features into the building without compromising the building’s expected long lifespan.
“Our architect has designed a building that is sustainable, uses natural materials and is intended to last for many more years than typical buildings being built today,” McCarter said. “It uses very old building techniques such as timber framing, but is modern to reflect our own time.”
The timber beams for framing, Meredith said, were sustainably harvested from the new center’s current site using horses by restorative foresters from the area. Worst-first techniques were used in choosing trees to be logged, she added.
The center was planned to be situated specifically to take advantage of passive solar radiation. That means the sun will shine in places where it’s needed based on the time of day and temperature needed in the space. The pool area will also use skylights to use the sunlight to naturally light the room.
These are just a few examples of a long list of green features Warm Hearth Village has implemented into The Village Center.
“Hundreds of meetings were conducted with our residents, and various experts will ensure that the building functions very well,” McCarter said. “The building is timeless, simple and elegant. Its beauty will lift the spirits of anyone who visits.”
That was the plan for Warm Hearth Village founders Wybe and Mariejte Kroontje, who created a 100-year plan for the retirement community more than 37 years ago, according to Meredith.
The Kroontjes were Dutch nationals who immigrated to the United States after World War II and wanted to give a gift to America for their liberation.
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In 1974, the Kroontjes gained a charter for the village, and Wybe laid out his plan. In that plan, the first two developments focused on establishing a continuum of care from independent living to long-term nursing care. The third part focused on constructing single-family homes and a community center.
The Kroontjes envisioned a retirement community that was modeled after care they had seen in the Netherlands, Meredith said. Care that focused on respect and dignity, not just housing, she added.
“Their mission was, and our mission still is, to serve all people of different socioeconomic levels,” Meredith said. “We’re not just providing housing to people who can afford nice large homes, we’re also providing subsidized housing to more than 140 seniors who can’t quite afford the full cost of housing or retirement living. We’re driven by their goals and their dreams.”
Meredith said the board goes through a strategic planning process every three to five years where they look at Kroontje’s 100-year plan to identify things the village needs in order to be competitive.
“This has been a project our founders envisioned the village needing as it grew,” Meredith said. “When we went to the master plan to think about The Village Center, where it would go and what it would house, it’s pretty much in the exact location that [Kroontje] specified.”
Kroontje wanted the center to be in a central location to everything he intended to develop in the future. He believed fitness and wellness would be a priority for seniors, Meredith said.
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The project, Meredith said, has been a long time coming and is “right on the money” when it comes to Kroontje’s 100-year plan.
McCarter believes the center will be more than just a new activities center for residents.
“Residents will now have convenient access to health and fitness programming and enhanced cultural programming right here on our campus,” McCarter said. “The positive impact on the daily lives of our residents is something they deserve and something our founder and the staff of Warm Hearth Village have been eager to be able to provide for a long time.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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