Nestled on 88 New England-picturesque acres in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is an enclave of apartments, cottages, gardens, and townhomes designed by Boston-based architects, GUND Partnership. The architecture hearkens back to an earlier time in an area of Northeastern Ohio known as the Western Reserve. Entering the property, one passes over a stone bridge then under a gateway bridge to arrive at the Village Green at the heart of the community. The road winds its way through lavishly landscaped grounds, designed by Oehme, van Sweden, and Associates, Washington, D.C., making each housing segment look distinctive and different from the rest.
The South Franklin Circle (SFC) community is Judson of Cleveland, Ohio's, newest gem-and it's giving Northeast Ohioans a glimpse of what luxury living, a sense of community, and living life to the fullest is shaping up to be in seniors housing and care. Judson, who chose to self-develop the project, is a nonprofit seniors housing and service provider with two downtown Cleveland locations-Judson Park and Judson Manor.
According to architects and Judson executives, South Franklin Circle's design started with a clean slate. From day one, Judson wanted something different.
“There was no ‘formula’ for this community,” says Laura Cabo, architectural principal with GUND Partnership. “Judson wanted to provide a more choice-based product. The typical senior living approach is a big building with wings sitting in the middle of a parking lot that you enter and residents never go outside. But South Franklin Circle had a very external approach to senior living. This was about putting nature in the middle, and creating a town square and village with nature surrounding the residents.” Residents of all care levels are immersed in the landscape.
“We weren't allowed to tour other facilities because Judson knew it wasn't what they envisioned,” adds Eric Svahn, project architect for SFC, concerning designing the project.
From day one, Judson did extensive market research through an independent research firm as well as surveys from different parts of the country to assess what seniors were interested in, what they liked, and what they would eventually require. They found seniors were ready to downsize, but not downgrade; wanted a strong connection to the greater community outside the senior development; a coherent master plan that developed multiple buildings was preferred instead of the institutional feel of one large building; open, light-filled living units, especially those with double height rooms, were highly desired. Upscale finishes rated well; high-end kitchens and appliances were important, along with the ability to choose options; and quality and richness of the exterior landscape needed to mirror the architecture and result in a sustainable environment.
Judson wanted to draw from a populace that wouldn't be drawn to its two downtown Cleveland locations-Judson Park and Judson Manor. They were interested in the seniors who preferred the suburbs. They were also interested in the “next wave” of seniors who weren't relying on Medicare and Medicaid. What they found was potential residents or members, as SFC calls them, didn't want to live in anything institutional. They wanted to live in a community and they wanted to continue pursuing their individual interests whether they were philanthropic, personal hobbies, or continuing their careers.
After searching for eight years and looking at 40 sites, the current location was chosen. It is situated in a sleepy southeastern suburb of Cleveland in an area reminiscent of New England, complete with a natural waterfall in the quaint downtown dotted with upscale stores, boutiques, and restaurants. The area is also surrounded by the Cleveland Metroparks, the largest contiguous public park in the United States, nicknamed the Emerald Necklace. (Judson reconfigured one of the Metropark's trails at a cost of $1.5 million to skirt the development and put power lines below grade. They actually gave land to the park system.) SFC's grand opening was in September. Phase I is complete and Phase II will start when the first phase reaches 90% occupancy.
Phase I is comprised of three home types: cottage, garden, and townhomes as well as apartments. The master plan calls for 320 units comprised of 30 cottages, 20 garden duplexes, 24 townhomes, 206 apartments, 40 of those for assisted living. Some one-bedroom and studio units can be coupled to achieve a larger unit. There are 29 unique layouts. The smallest unit is 927 sq. ft., the largest, a custom-built unit with 2,985 sq. ft.