By EILEEN O’GRADY
Nearly a year into construction, the $39 million update and expansion project at the Wake Robin retirement community is in its final phase at the end of the winding wooded drive off Bostwick Road.
On a recent Monday, workers contracted by New York-based Lecesse Construction Services were hard at work wiring and painting inside the shell of the soon-to-be Maple Apartment building, which will accommodate up to 55 new residents.
Judy Rosenstreich, 74, of Burlington will be one of these residents. With a move-in date of Oct. 10, Rosenstreich will be the first occupant of the new building, which was booked up completely by prospective residents before ground was broken on the project last September.
“They sent me a letter in January 2017. They introduced the new apartment building and I decided it’s either now or never,” she said. “I called them up and made the appointment and the rest is history.”
Months in advance of the move, Rosenstreich, a former representative in the Vermont State Legislature, was able to customize many of the details in her new home. She chose her own paint color for the walls, the color and the design of the flooring, material for countertops along with kitchen cupboards, appliances, faucets, and electrical outlets. She was even given a choice of flush features for the bathroom toilet.
“In a house, you usually make these decisions gradually over time, you don’t decide it all at once before you move in,” Rosenstreich said. “So it was challenging, but it was really very nice that I got to make these decisions. I’m going to move into my own home that’s going to reflect my taste.”
Besides the new Maple building, the Wake Robin project includes renovation and expansion of the existing community center and Linden Health Center. Renovations to the community center will create a new dining area with a restaurant-style format that will feature farm-to-table offerings, according to Marketing Director Amy Caldwell. The former dining hall space will become a fitness center with new equipment, weight machines, and yoga mats. Renovations to the current health center will include expanded living and dining areas.
According to Caldwell, the Maple Project is the last of three construction initiatives for the retirement community. The first was its initial establishment in 1993; 10 years later duplex-style housing was added to the perimeter of the property.
“They always had planned it to be three phases,” Caldwell said of Wake Robin’s founders. “So here we are today, and we’re deciding that with all the people we’re bringing in, we need to expand our health center so that we can accommodate all these new people.”
Caldwell says the project incorporates the company’s goals to expand the development’s population while simultaneously addressing active aging trends.
Wake Robin encourages residents to maintain an active lifestyle with on-site activities such as beekeeping, maple syrup production, gardening, silver-smithing, watercolor painting, English country dancing, hiking and maintaining the five miles of woodland trails around the property.
“It’s a really inquisitive, curious, artistic, engaged group of people we have here,” Caldwell said. “If a group of residents wants to see something happen, they come forward and make it happen. Whatever they want to put together, we offer here for them.”
When completed, the new Maple apartment building should mirror the active and community-minded lifestyle of Wake Robin residents, Caldwell explained. Amenities will include a common room with a Steinway piano, fireplace, kitchen and outdoor patio, and a third-floor cocktail deck overlooking Lake Champlain. Each apartment has a detached garage nearby.
Although sawdust, nails and wood scraps lined the hallway floors on a recent walk-through, details clearly show the modern features of the new construction. The nine-foot ceilings, balconies, open floor plans, and six-foot windows are aesthetically pleasing, but other less-visible features include geothermal heating, a green roof, and electric car-charging stations.
“We did surveys where we asked people what they wanted in terms of housing,” Caldwell explained. “What we heard was apartments, and open spaces. That is what we worked with.”
Sally and David Conrad have lived at Wake Robin for the past 10 years. They say that many of the retirement community’s occupants are looking forward to the completion of the project both for the amenities and for an end to the project’s commotion. They say noise from the construction site, combined with disruptions to eating locations and walking paths has affected residents, although everyone seems to have adapted well to the changes.
“The residents have really been good sports about the whole thing,” Sally Conrad said.
Her husband agreed. “These things end eventually. You forget the bad parts and enjoy the new amenities. I think we are all looking forward to that.”
Apartments are scheduled to be ready for occupancy starting in October. Renovations on the community buildings are expected to finish by March 2019.
Looking ahead to her move, Rosenstreich said she is downsizing her possessions – sorting old papers, selling large pieces of furniture, and putting her historic American Foursquare house in Burlington on the market. She said she’s looking forward to joining an active new community. “I expect to have a busy life ahead,” she said.