On Tuesday that was answered with the opening of 89 South Senior Living Community after a yearlong, $5 million renovation of the 19th-century structure into 18 units designed for aging in place. The retirement community becomes part of the continuum of care with the long-term care facility and At Home with Berkshire Place home-care services.
"It has been a long journey. And the journey really began with the relocation of the skilled facility, the nursing home, from this location to 290 South," said Richard Herrick, president of the board of directors at Tuesday's ribbon cutting. "And it's allowed us to have the opportunity to think about this building, and how it might best serve the community, serve the mission of Berkshire Place.
"And meet, frankly, the expectations of the senior consumer. And I guess I'm one of them."
Herrick said there may be a desire to stay in a home that people love and are "emotionally invested in." But that can become a liability as they get older because they may no longer be able to maintain their home or it no longer suits their needs.
"And while there are many apartments around, we thought it also very important that it would be not only apartments with the latest design and technology," he said. "But also supportive services to effectively make that residential stay the highest quality of life."
The ribbon cutting was followed by tours of the facility and a reception in the spacious common rooms on the first floor.
There is one studio apartment and 17 one and two-bedroom units. Each unit is unique in layout and has a small kitchen, bathroom and washer/dryer units. The finishes are modern and the units come with hookups for television and cable, and have air conditioning.
Costs vary by suite and services such as meals, housekeeping, nursing. The first two residents will move in in August followed by more as applications are accepted.
"All have a unique character that provide comfort and supportive living that older adults can stay active independent in our downtown," said Executive Director Edward Forfa. "The services are also supported, as you heard, by Berkshire Place and At Home with Berkshire Place to provide a continuum of care for our residents should they need more extensive health-care needs in the future."
The building was constructed in 1888 by Zenas Crane — next to the Berkshire Museum that he also founded — as the Berkshire County Home for Aged Women. It became Berkshire Place in the 1960s.
The renovation was done by Allegrone Construction, which also built the new 40,000 square foot Berkshire Place at 290 South St., and financed through Adams Community Bank. The renovation maintained much of the historic character, such as the moldings and trim.
Forfa said the work done by Allegrone on the new Berkshire Place allowed the nonprofit time to consider what to do with the historic building and the decision was made to bring it back to its roots as an independent living situation with supportive services. The building fits into the "age-friendly" efforts being done in the county.
"It's fantastic. I think it's great for the city," Forfa said. "The location and the Cultural Arts District is important. It's right visibility-wise for the city and right for the people that are going to be residing here. Within a couple blocks, you can get to just about anything you need, whether it's the church and religious aspects of things, the cultural pieces with the museum and the Colonial [Theatre], the library, grocery store, the drugstore."
Mayor Linda Tyer said she wanted to congratulate and thank those "who had a part in saving this historic building, renovating it into what will be a safe haven for older citizens who need comfort, and a place to live."
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