After more than five years of planning, Channing House is finally ready to begin digging -- symbolically at least at a 4 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony for a new health center.
It also plans a renovation of its second floor, where its existing health center is located, after the new center opens.
The retirement community in downtown Palo Alto began the lengthy process of gaining approval from the city and state to renovate its facility by building a new health center back in 2005.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be held in the parking lot off of Homer Avenue where the new health center is to be built. Richard Lyman, former Stanford University president; Dr. Philip Lee, son of Channing House founder Dr. Russel Lee; Judy Moss, president of the Resident Association of Channing House; and Executive Director Carl Braginsky are scheduled to speak at the event.
Braginsky said the nursing facility needed to be replaced rather than renovated.
"Our 46-year-old health center requires major updating, which cannot be accomplished in the current spaces," he said.
Construction is set to begin by the end of the month.
The current center, on the second floor of the 11-story building, was completed in 1964 and lacks space and privacy for patients, according to the organization. Health center patients who require assisted-living or skilled-nursing care live in two- and three-bed rooms.
Channing House made the case for its renovation in a 2005 development statement: "Today's standards require more space, privacy and other amenities for each resident and a more efficient building layout."
The project is planned in two phases. The first will be the construction of the two-story, approximately 37,000-square-foot health center with a 17,000-square-foot underground garage (see plans). The entire first phase is expected to take 19 months to complete, according to Braginsky.
The second phase will involve the remodeling of the second floor of the existing building where the current health care center is located. Construction on this part of the building won't start until all health center residents have been relocated to the new facilities and is anticipated to take roughly seven months, Braginsky said.
The remodel will add 14 apartments to the retirement home's 188 existing ones. There will be 12 two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments (see plans).
"The new facilities, particularly the second-phase remodel of our second floor, will greatly enhance our capabilities of providing services to residents to enhance their independence," Braginsky said.
The construction will help facilitate Channing House's Aging-at-Home program, which provides services to residents so they are able to maintain independence and live in their apartments longer. Programs will include "prescribing and monitoring diet and exercise, assistance with medications and greater opportunities for mental, emotional and social stimulation that help to minimize loneliness and depression," according to the organization.
There will also be examination and treatment rooms for both on-site and visiting medical professionals and an education room, a meditation space, a physical-therapy room and a beauty shop.
The renovations have stirred some worries. In 2005, when plans for construction were first made public, neighbor Elizabeth Rubenfein was among a group of local residents who expressed concern.
Neighbors said an air-conditioning unit on the roof did not seem to be within the city's guidelines (it has since been moved and approved by the city) and worried about the deep digging the project would require.
"A project of that scale in a residential or semi-residential neighborhood is very disruptive," Rubenfein said. "We wanted to make sure the people running the project were taking that into account."
Rubenfein said she felt there were management problems with previous projects, but this time Channing House has taken care to address all of their concerns.
"My fingers are crossed that it goes as smoothly as their plans suggest it can," she said.
Residents at Channing House have similar hopes. Sixteen-year residents Frances Laurence and Ruth Noseworthy are looking forward to the benefits the renovations will bring, despite the inconveniences of construction.
Laurence said the construction means more room and more things to do. Additional rooms are especially significant for Laurence, who has a son and daughter-in-law who have been waiting to get into Channing House for six years. But more residents are good for everyone because they'll bring more money to the community, she said.
Noseworthy broke both ankles four months ago and said she felt relief at having a health center so close. She felt the current center was adequate but agrees that it could be enlarged and modernized.
Both said they felt the construction can bring nothing but good to the home they love.