ALH Mondovi breaks ground for assisted living addition
by Beth Kraft
About two-and-a-half years after putting the finishing touches on the Hillview Senior Living Center, construction equipment has returned to Mondovi’s American Lutheran Homes facility to begin work to double the size of its assisted living space.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held at ALH on Thursday, Oct. 23, to officially mark the beginning of project construction following over a year of planning for the 12-room, 8,970-square foot addition expected to cost upwards of $2.1 million.
“We are excited,” said ALH administrator Ken King. “It’s going to be great to have this new addition.”
When Hillview Senior Living opened its doors showcasing large apartments and modern amenities in May 2012, its 12 assisted living rooms filled up quickly.
In fact, the level of demand the facility experienced was somewhat unanticipated.
“When we originally built the building, we looked at a plan that included 24 beds, but it was new and we just didn’t know if we could fill it up,” explained Linda Larson, president of the ALH Board of Directors. “We did not realize how much demand there would be.”
“We had a lot of people calling asking for beds and we didn’t have them,” said King.
At the time, project planners were cautious about overextending Hillview, which was created as part of a major, three-phase renovation plan, reminded King.
That building overhaul also included the creation of short-term rehabilitation rooms and a state-of-the-art therapy gym among other updates.
But about a year after opening Hillview Senior Living, the organization recognized that expanding it was the way to go.
“You could see that once we started filling up that the demand was there,” said King. “At the back of our minds we were looking at, ‘What do we have to do?’ The need is there.”
In fact, over the past year Hillview Senior Living has seen just seven open days, said Larson, meaning that as soon as an individual vacates an apartment, another person moves in quite quickly.
Currently, the waiting list for assisted living rooms rests at roughly 20-30 names, says King, though noting that not all of those people are ready to move in right away–they simply want to hold a spot for future care.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, various speakers including Larson, King and local politicians noted part of the draw to the Mondovi facility is its ability to provide residents with top-notch care while remaining in their local community.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout said long-term care is a subject close to her heart, noting her first job was in a nursing home.
“For all of us, God willing, long-term care is part of our future,” Vinehout pointed out, commending ALH and other facilities like it for striving to find ways to help people continue to reside locally while still meeting their needs.
As the area’s overall population ages, it’s important for places like ALH to provide them with the proper level of care, said state assembly rep Chris Danou.
He also noted that a long-term construction project like the ALH addition is good for the economy, creating jobs for contractors and opening up the need for ALH to increase its staff.
King said the new facility will essentially function as its own assisted living space with a communal kitchen, access to an exercise room and spacious private living space.
“The expectations of this building and these apartments is going to be very high-level,” said King, expressing his belief that the new ALH facility will rival many in larger cities like Eau Claire and La Crosse.
Apartment amenities will be similar to those in existing Hillview units with individual bathrooms with European showers and a refrigerator/freezer unit and TV in each room.
“It’s great to see the progress that’s been made,” said King. “I think it’s going to be done in a smooth fashion and move along fairly fast.”
Work has already begun to prepare the site for the addition. An existing parking lot on the facility’s north side has been demolished and grading work was in progress last week in hopes of pouring the concrete building footings soon.
King said the goal was to enclose the building before cold weather sets in, although some outdoor tasks can be completed in wintry weather.
A completion date for the 12-room assisted living addition, set to feature two double rooms for couples, is tentatively set for June of 2015.
For Larson, who has been a part of ALH’s BOD for a total of 12 years, last week’s groundbreaking ceremony marked a relative end to the long planning process.
“This, to me, is awesome,” she said of construction start-up. “This is Mondovi. People think, ‘nothing ever happens in Mondovi.’ But something is happening and it feels like you’re moving forward for something positive.”
Plans for this facility in particular have included various pieces, including approval by the city’s planning commission, obtaining a zoning change for the property due to the planned building’s proximity to the lot line, and purchasing land from Waumandee State Bank for new parking lot space on the west side of Memorial Drive to name just a few steps in the time-intensive process.
“This project is very near and dear to my heart,” added Larson, noting the facility has undergone many positive changes since her grandmother was a resident there 13 years ago.
“I’m so excited about the progress that we’ve made,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to put some of these people on the waiting list in a place that feels more like home than a nursing home.”