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A transformation

April 1, 2010
by Maureen Hrehocik, Editor
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The Deupree House and Nursing Cottages, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tye Campbell, PE SFCS Inc.

Page 40

Simply put, The Deupree House and Nursing Cottages was one of the most challenging projects the SFCS Architects design team has ever worked on. Equal to the challenges it presented though, is the satisfaction received by the design team, staff, and residents in its completion.

The retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, owned by The Episcopal Retirement Homes of Ohio, underwent a comprehensive planning effort to revitalize its existing campus. By creating a new five-story, 60-unit, one- and two-bedroom state-of-the-art independent living apartment building with under-building parking, revenue was produced to support the campus upgrades and resort-style amenities. These amenities included renovated and expanded dining venues; a new community events center; a state- of-the-art wellness center, complete with a heated indoor pool and spa; exercise facilities; and chapel. In addition, to meet the health needs of the residents for a full continuum of care, two unique “nursing cottages” were added that look, feel, and operate like home. Each cottage has 10 private residential rooms with showers, and two private residential suites that allow for a separate living and sleeping area for total of 12 rooms. Common areas include the hearth room with fireplace, dining room, den, kitchen, spa, and library.

New construction comprised 190,984 sq. ft. and renovations covered 4,482 sq. ft.

Tye campbell, pe
Tye Campbell, PE

Greatest challenge

SFCS worked closely with the City of Cincinnati Planning Commission and the Health Department throughout the design process to solve several challenges for the independent living apartments, wellness center, and the “cottage” additions. “We tackled each challenge one by one,” says Tye Campbell, PE, president of SFCS Architects of Roanoke, Virginia. For example, an existing easement for the extension of a future street (called a “paper street”) divided the Deupree Community, severely limiting the development potential of the site. Through negotiations with the city of Cincinnati, the paper street was permanently closed allowing for development of the property.

A major high-pressure gas line traversed through the property creating safety and maintenance challenges. The team also relocated a 54-in. combined sanitary sewer/storm line adjacent to the 20-in. high-pressure gas line (which supplies the upper northeast quadrant of Cincinnati) to allow adequate clearance to the proposed new community center and apartment building. By working around the gas line, the team was able to provide an extremely cost-effective solution, Campbell says. Future maintenance of the gas line and combined sewer was facilitated by incorporating a second floor pedestrian walkway, linking the new wellness center and existing campus to the new independent living building.

Additionally, the team faced neighborhood opposition to the proposed apartment building. Multimillion dollar homes look down from a well-established neighborhood directly onto the Deupree campus. The neighbors were concerned about the effect the removal of trees would have on their views, privacy, and real estate values. To minimize concern, the team developed a three dimensional, computer-generated site model to simulate views from each of the adjacent property owner's patios. “This neutralized the opposition,” Campbell reports. “No one showed opposition to our project during the final zoning meeting.”

Resident involvement

Resident involvement from the very beginning was essential to the project's success. “Episcopal Retirement Homes was adamant from day one that there be staff and resident involvement in the design,” Campbell says. Involvement began at the master planning stage and included design charettes with resident groups. Resident committees were formed and participated in “visual listening” exercises to help them explain to the design team what “home” meant to them and how to create a community that is meaningful to their generation. Residents participated and used inspirational photos from magazines to communicate and interpret aspects such as color and texture.

Campbell says the design team carefully listened to the answers the residents gave. Is “home” the color of the fence? Is it the material on the floors? Does seeing a hospital bed make it feel institutional? What evokes positive emotion and says “home” to the resident? “We gained new insights into the residents' view of their new community,” Campbell says. The design team applied the exercise to create an end product that matched the resident's vision of a home.

Construction of the new independent living apartments and wellness center took 18 months to complete. Construction of the nursing cottages took another 14 months.

The Deupree nursing cottages are unique with their two, 12- bed houses connected with a short, light-filled corridor. The South Cottage exterior is designed in the Craftsman style and the North Cottage is designed as a Colonial. Flexible workers prepare meals, create activities, plan daily life, and work as a team to be part of the home. A new culture, rooted in resident choice and resident involvement in directing their care and daily lives, has evolved and guides all aspects of the Deupree community.

Ideal working relationship