A senior-living facility and medical office is being proposed for a 16.45-acre undeveloped parcel between Kings Highway and Savannah Road in Lewes.
Ocean Atlantic Companies and Vantage Point Retirement Living Inc. are working together to see the project come to reality.
Officials from the companies have filed rezoning applications with the City of Lewes to rezone 9.34 acres to community facilities health care, and the remaining 7.11 acres to limited commercial.
“We had a market study commissioned in June of this year, and it indicated a large, unmet demand for senior-living housing,” said Preston Schell, president of Ocean Atlantic Companies.
The proposed project includes a three-floor senior-living facility with 32 units for memory care, 63 units for assisted living and 80 units for independent living. The plan also sets aside space for future expansion to accommodate 24 more independent living apartments.
The facility will be associated with the Truitt Homestead aging-in-place community near Rehoboth Beach that won approval from the county in 2015. An assisted-living facility on the property was also approved by the Sussex board of adjustment earlier this year. Both the Lewes and Rehoboth communities will be managed by Vantage Point and will share amenities.
“If you live at Truitt Homestead, you will be bumped to the top of the waiting list for available assisted living or memory care units if and when you need them,” Schell said.
Greg Stevens, president of Pennsylvania-based Vantage Point and a 20-year visitor to the Cape Region, said the project will fill a dire need.
“It struck me after spending so much time in this industry that there have been effectively no new [senior-living] communities built there since I’ve been going down,” he said. “Still, everybody sees the seniors moving into this market.”
Stevens said he and Schell make a great team because many Schell residential ventures aim to attract pre-retirement-aged people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, while Vantage Point’s focus is to provide high-level housing and services for seniors 80 and older at Truitt Homestead and at the proposed Lewes facility.
“I think this is very complementary,” Stevens said. “We see people in either community are going to be able to tap into services and amenities at the other. We don’t think there are options like that out there.”
The senior-living facility model will be slightly different than normal too, Stevens said. There will be no large, upfront cost, sometimes $500,000 or more, to get into the facility.
“Given the choice, nine out of 10 seniors would rather go to a community where they don’t have to write out that upfront check,” he said. “Basically, all of our communities are based on a monthly fee.”
Vantage Point has had great success at the Summit at Hockessin senior-living community upstate, which opened in 2015. The Lewes facility will be very similar, Stevens said.
Schell touted Vantage Point’s dedication to providing top-level facilities and care.
“Greg’s company builds best-in-class senior-living facilities,” he said. “The architecture, the interior design, the living environment, the quality of the amenities and services … the objective is to provide the same level of lifestyle that the people moving in are used to having.”
The plan includes a variety of apartment options for residents as well as a movie theater, pub lounge, full-service salon and spa, and a fitness center. A full range of rehabilitation services will be located on site too.
Proximity to Beebe Healthcare was an important factor in choosing the location for the facility, Schell said.
“We’re filling some of the independent living [needs] with our Rehoboth facility, but with assisted living and memory care, you want to be closer to a hospital,” he said. “That lends itself to being in Lewes.”
Traffic concerns often weigh heavily on nearby residents, but this facility is not likely to generate heavy traffic, Schell said. Memory care residents and most of the assisted living residents will not drive, and independent living residents can be much more selective as to when they leave the facility, he said.
“Most traffic that’s generated comes from employees during shift changes and deliveries,” Schell said. “You can schedule shift changes around the traffic patterns along Kings Highway.”
Schell said shift changes can be set up so they do not coincide with the beginning or end of school at nearby Cape Henlopen High School.
On the smaller piece of the property, the proposal calls for two two-story medical office buildings, each about 29,500 square feet. Schell said the offices fit into an established corridor of medical services along Savannah Road.
“I think people like knowing the bulk of their medical services can be obtained within a certain area,” he said. “Right now, that’s the Savannah Road corridor.”
Schell said he worked with Lewes City Manager Ann Marie Townshend and city planner Tom West to determine the proper zoning for each part of the proposed project. Limited commercial seemed like the best option for the medical offices.
“Our intentions are medical offices,” Schell said. “If they had a more limited zoning designation specific to a medical office, we’d pursue that.”
In total, the entire project calls for nearly 280,000-square-feet of building space with 466 parking spaces. Impervious surface covers about 52 percent of the lot, or 8.48 acres.
Stevens said the goal is to break ground on the Truitt Homestead project next spring with completion set for spring 2018. The timeline for the Lewes project is a little more up in the air. Schell said his hope is to have it completed sometime in the next three years.