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In Iowa City, residents move into new retirement community during pandemic

People moving into new Oaknoll East in Iowa City

The bar seating area is seen at Oaknoll East in Iowa City. The first two buildings in the new complex, at 2640 N. Scott
The bar seating area is seen at Oaknoll East in Iowa City. The first two buildings in the new complex, at 2640 N. Scott Blvd., opened Oct. 26, with the third building scheduled for completion in February. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Iowa and across the country, no one could be blamed for not wanting to move out of their private, secure home into a facility around other people.

But John and Mary Jo Langhorne felt otherwise.

In October, they moved from their Iowa City home to the new Oaknoll East retirement community, joining the residents of more than a dozen other occupied units at the new building, 2640 N. Scott Blvd. near ACT.

“We knew there were a lot of very capable people,” John Langhorne said of Oaknoll’s ability to manage the pandemic. “I have friends who live at Oaknoll. We know how they take care of people. They haven’t had a single case of COVID since this whole thing started — that’s a pretty good record.”

Steve Roe, Oaknoll’s executive director, confirmed Oaknoll has not had a COVID-19 case at any care level — independent living, assisted living or in the health center.

That’s not to say, he said, the $30 million Oaknoll East facility, which broke ground in May 2019, hasn’t seen the effects of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic hit, Roe said, 40 to 45 of the 60 units at the new facility had contracts. Oaknoll officials anticipated they’d sell out the facility by this fall.

“Then COVID hit, and activity just dried up for three to four months,” Roe said. “People were reluctant to look at anything.”

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Even with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Iowa, Roe said he’s confident all 60 units will be sold by this spring.

Two of the facility’s three residential buildings opened for occupancy on Oct. 26, and 14 of the 37 units in those two buildings are occupied, he said. The third building — with 23 units — is expected to open in February.

When it’s finished, the facility will include a restaurant, bar, community space, exercise room, dog park and heated underground parking.

“We’re not using them currently in the way that we will post-COVID,” Roe said of those features. “But COVID won’t be with us forever, we certainly hope. Those are important amenities of a campus. Having the restaurant and community space is just vital to what we do.”

While the Langhornes can’t yet have guests visit their new home, they don’t have any regrets about making the move a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s a grand place to live,” John said. “The people are very cordial. The apartments are very beautiful. ... Every little thing you could think of, they thought of.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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