Old Town may get high-end senior facility


Denis Bryant, president and CEO of Living Care, said the exterior of Eldridge Manor will be designed to incorporate the “old grandeur of Bellingham.”


Living Care, a Seattle-based developer and operator of senior housing facilities, is hoping to bring one of its high-end senior living centers to Bellingham’s Old Town.

“We’re very selective about the markets we move into,” said Denis Bryant, president and CEO of Living Care. “We’ve done our research and we think Bellingham would be a good market for us.”

According to a city public notice, Living Care and Seattle-based Irwin-Pancake Architects, have gone through pre-application meetings with the city of Bellingham with plans to construct what is currently being called Eldridge Manor, a four-story senior living residential building at 1515 E St. on the northeast corner of E and Bancroft streets.

The development would boast 91 one-and two-bedroom units, a basement garage with underground parking for 52 vehicles, a memory care center with 10 additional rooms and a roof terrace.

The project will also feature dining areas, a beauty shop/spa, multipurpose areas, a rooftop deck and other common areas. While the square footage of the individual rooms is yet to be determined, the overall project will have 131,929 square feet.

Bryant said the property owners originally had plans for a 76-unit, mixed-use condominium project, but the current economy sent them looking for other options.

“These days people are looking for any uses that are viable and don’t require mortgage loans,” Bryant said.

Living Care already has two facilities in Texas, two in California, one in Longview, Wash., and three more facilities in the planning phase in Washington state, including Eldridge Manor.

The company specializes in facilities that are a mix of independent and assisted living, but Eldridge Manor would also have a memory care center for seniors.

“We have found that people are looking for that continuum of care,” Bryant said.

Bryant said Living Care would bring a higher-end senior living product than what is currently found within the Bellingham city limits.

“I don’t think we see anything particularly high end in the city itself,” Bryant said. “There are some in the outlying areas of the county, but nothing that is more in the urban environment.”

Bryant said as baby boomers retire, they are looking for living options that allow them to live as they did before, so Living Care has taken a different care philosophy than other businesses. For example, instead of having two set meals a day, Living Care residents can order from an a la carte menu with more than 50 options anytime they choose.

“There are going to be a lot of us,” Bryant said, referring to retiring baby boomers, “and we are finding that people want to live as they did when they lived at home, where they could get what they want at any time. It’s not up to us to tell people how to live.”

Thomas Mead, director of architecture for Irwin-Pancake, Living Care’s design firm, which specializes in senior care facilities, said while designs are still fluctuating, their main priorities have been to create something that fits in with the local character.

“We want to create something that Bellingham would be proud to see when they look up on that hill,” Mead said.

Mead said the developers and designers are making green choices wherever it is “financially viable.”

“Our main priority is to make sure we have a healthy interior environment,” Mead said.

For the exterior, Bryant said they took pictures of the surrounding area to make sure their facility reflects the Old Town character of that area.

“Those older parts of town represent an era and what we have done is try to really incorporate the old grandeur of Bellingham into this project,” Bryant said.

Bellingham city planner Brian Smart said the project would fit in nicely among some newer apartments and professional offices along that part of E Street.

“They are proposing a strong facility that will bring a nice mix of residential uses to the area,” Smart said.

Smart said now Living Care must file applications for a design review permit and a conditional use permit to allow the memory care center. The conditional use request will then go before the Bellingham Hearings Examiner before the company can apply for building permits.

Bryant said he is hoping to get building permits by fall of this year, so they can begin construction in 2010.

A neighborhood meeting will be held to discuss this project at 6 p.m., March 4, in the Bellingham School District main office at 1306 Dupont St.

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