Sometimes repositioning of a facility to transition from the old to a new era can seem to be the most obvious course of action imaginable. But what if residents don't want to go along? This was the question faced by the management of Westminster Village, a 20-year-old, luxury-level retirement community with skilled and independent living accommodations for 320 residents in the Scottsdale, Arizona vicinity, along with a Perkins Eastman architectural/design team charged with developing the project. The Perkins Eastman team of Daniel Cinelli, principal-in-charge, Jason Dobbin, architecture team member, JinHwa (Gina) Park, architecture team member, and Jennifer McDermott, interiors team member, discussed the transformation with Long-Term Living Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Peck.
Peck: How did this project get started?
Cinelli: We were brought in to do a strategic plan for the organization by a new CEO. The campus offered great apartments of unusual size but, when it was completed 20 years ago, it had run out of gas in developing the Town Center, which underwent a lot of value engineering. Today there's a lot of competition in the community, and the Westminster board was looking for a tune-up. There was only one problem: There were six residents on the board, and they thought everything was fine as is. We showed them photos of other facilities, with multiple dining venues and the like, and the residents formed a Resident Council to work with us. We spent six months talking with them and educating them about today's consumer demands and trends. They saw that with an entrance fee-type project like this one, if people were unlikely to buy their units someday, their estates would suffer. When they asked if they could just move toward assisted living units and let it go at that, we said their dining facilities just wouldn't attract that clientele. In the end, although it was a painful process for them, when they saw where Westminster needed to be, they trusted us to help them get there.
Peck: How was the project approached?
Park: Careful programming led to a two-phase project, starting with a new Town Center and then, on the second floor, a 23-unit assisted living center. We wanted to make sure the new Town Center was fully functional so the existing one could be demolished in a seamless transition. Residents watched its construction through the dining room windows. The new Town Center has five individual dining choices, ranging from casual to formal, and a lounge.
Cinelli: It seems as though the market is starving for multiple restaurant-style dining venues, and they are definitely the real thing. Someone commented on the excellent wine selection in the formal dining area.
Dobbin: Our firm in general is moving its healthcare design approach away from the clearly institutional look to more of a resort hospitality look. At Westminster, we make attractive use of stone, for example, as opposed to the stucco of the older buildings. And we use a courtyard model, including one involving a water feature for one of the dining areas—in effect, intimate dining pavilions sitting on little islands in the water.
Cinelli: The resort concept applies to the design of the entrance to the new Town Center, too. You could barely find the entrance to the old Town Center; it was narrow, with a small canopy, and just no “wow” factor. When Jason was through designing this one, you definitely knew where the entrance is, and it's a beacon to the community.
Peck: How does the interior design follow this resort-like concept?
McDermott: There's a real hierarchy of spaces. There's a strong indoor/outdoor connection with the use of stone at the entrance, the fireplace, and in the interior columns in the lobby, library, and lounge. Colors are from the natural landscape surrounding the facility, such as green and desert yellows, golds, and oranges. The flooring moves from concrete to stone pavers as seamlessly as we could make it. And there's a variety among spaces, with each offering its own experience. A glass tile wall in the garden café, zebrawood on the walls in casual dining, and a lowered ceiling over the salad bar to give it a more intimate feel, are some examples. One of my favorite spaces is the library, with its rectilinear bookcases and a see-though fireplace, with the lobby on the other side.
Cinelli: And the fireplace is fabulous as an exterior attraction, too. You'll see residents sitting around it and watching the sunset. Meanwhile residents in assisted living on the second floor can look down on the fireplace and water feature and feel visually connected, and be only a short elevator ride away. It's a great public space.