Independent living is selling in Groton

Workers frame one of the housing units at the Thames Edge retirement housing development at Fairview in Groton.
Workers frame one of the housing units at the Thames Edge retirement housing development at Fairview in Groton. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Groton - The construction of a small neighborhood of single-family homes and duplexes that will offer independent living for those 55 and older is almost completed - and almost sold out.

Fairview, Odd Fellows Home of Connecticut is building 23 new homes on its 70-acre property that offers spectacular views of the Thames River, Gold Star Memorial Bridge and New London skyline, and 19 have been snapped up. By the time the first "members" move in later this spring, it's anticipated that contracts on the final four will have been executed.

Then Fairview will turn its attention to the second phase of Thames Edge, construction of another 17 Nantucket-inspired independent homes on its sprawling campus.

"There is strong demand for the homes and their value proposition," said James Rosenman, chief executive officer and administrator of Fairview, which was founded 122 years ago by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Grand Lodge as a nonprofit senior housing and health care provider.

Fairview is a still a nonprofit, but today, membership in the Odd Fellows is no longer a requirement for admission.

The $12 million Thames Edge development is the latest in a series of property and service upgrades at Fairview, which offers short- and long-term rehabilitation and apartment-style independent living.

But the construction of single-level homes - some detached, some duplexes - will set it apart from almost every similar provider in southeastern Connecticut.

Those 55 and older who choose to live there will pay an entry fee based on the square footage and location of their home. Fees for the first phase ranged from $225,000 to $320,000. In addition, there is a monthly fee based on square footage and the amount of the entry fee - those who pay the higher fee will pay less each month.

Members have lifetime use of their property, and when they vacate, Fairview "buys" the home back at a rate dependent on the initial entry fee. Rosenman said those who pay the top-tier entry fee will be reimbursed 90 percent of their buy-in. Those who pay a lower entrance fee will get less back.

"It's a great deal," said Rosenman, adding that in addition to a maintenance-free and worry-free lifestyle, the development will provide socialization at its clubhouse, pool and fitness center.

And members will never have to worry again about expenses such as trash collection, taxes, pest control, snow removal and utilities - that's all included in the monthly fee that on average will cost about $1,500 under the 90 percent refundable plan.

Independent living is not assisted living, but members can buy additional services already provided at Fairview off an a la carte menu, such as housekeeping, transportation, or a meal plan. And if someone at Thames Edge eventually moves to Fairview, they will be eligible for a 25 percent discount on long-term care.

Fairview's skilled nursing component has 120 beds for memory-care patients and short- and long-term rehabilitation. Rosenman said both physical and administrative changes are being made to enhance the memory-care unit, which will be relaunched in the spring.

There are also 24 independent-living apartments on the campus, similar to the Thames Edge concept, but not houses. People gravitate to independent living for various reasons, Rosenman said, sometimes because a spouse may be at Fairview.

Diversifying options at Fairview helps to make the entire facility stronger, said the administrator.

"It expands on the mission we have here and it's not putting all our eggs in one basket," he said.

Fairview has about 200 employees, and Thames Edge, which is being financed by Chelsea Groton Bank, is good for the regional economy, Rosenman said.

"This is an economic boost to the local economy, and we take that seriously," he said.

More than a century after it was started, the nonprofit is still focused on proving quality care for people with different wants and needs.

"We've always been very focused on the long term, with a long-range vision," Rosenman said. "This will help us to continue the great health care that we already have."

a.baldelli@theday.com

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