IOWA CITY — For about five years, John Langhorne and his wife, Mary Jo, have been on a waiting list for an independent living unit at the Oaknoll Retirement Community.
Langhorne, 75, said he doesn’t want to move into a nursing home, but with his daughter thousands of miles away, he likes the idea of living in a community where help is available if needed.
“They’re going to take care of us until we die,” Langhorne said.
The Langhornes won’t have to wait much longer to get into the housing they desire. On Wednesday, officials broke ground at Oaknoll East, a 60-unit independent living community at 2201 Scott Blvd., near ACT. The Langhornes were among those in attendance at the groundbreaking who had already made plans to purchase one of the units.
The project started about two and a half years ago with local developer Kevin Hanick.
“We thought there was a niche for high quality senior housing in Iowa City,” Hanick said.
Hanick worked with Shive-Hattery, Inc. to design the facility, which will be built by Hodge Construction. Hanick then brought the idea to Oaknoll in early 2018, said Steve Roe, Executive Director of Oaknoll. Roe said he worked to sell Oaknoll’s board of directors on the merits of the project and the board voted to move forward with the roughly $30 million project in fall of 2018.
“This has been a long time coming,” Roe said. “A lot of work has gone into getting us to this point.”
The 60 units will be spread between three buildings, two of which will be pet-friendly, Roe said. The independent living community will feature a restaurant, bar, community space, exercise room, dog park and heated underground parking.
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More importantly, Oaknoll East will fill a need, Roe said. At Oaknolls main campus at 1 Oaknoll Drive on the west side of Iowa City, there are currently 200 households on waiting list for independent living units. That’s with an expansion of 70 independent living units that opened in summer 2015 and was sold out before opening.
“We just didn’t have enough of the right size apartments opening up,” Roe said.
Roe said he’s expecting similar results when Oaknoll East opens in fall 2020. About 60 percent of the units have already sold, he said.
The main Oaknoll campus offers independent living, assisted living and nursing care. Residents enter into a plan that will see them transition from unit to unit as the need arises. While Oaknoll East will be exclusively independent living, the residents there will transition to the main campus when necessary.
Roe said the average age of Oaknoll residents is currently 82. He expects Oaknoll East to bring that average down to the early 70s. He said many of the residents they serve live in their houses for several decades before downsizing to a condominium and then moving to a facility like Oaknoll. Roe said the hope is Oaknoll East replaces the need to move to a condominium.
Construction on Oaknoll East is expected to begin next week. Andy Hodge with Hodge Construction said the first two buildings should be open in fall 2020 with the third building ready for occupants about four months later.
“We think it’s going to be a great addition to the Iowa City senior housing market,” Hanick said.
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