As work nears completion on the $33.5 million, 125,000-square-feet construction project at The Culpeper retirement community, many residents are most looking forward to one simple thing—being able to control the thermostat in their own rooms.

“It’s a big thing because it’s very, very hot in my room,” said 84-year-old Joan Blackwell, president of the Residents’ Council at the formerly named Culpeper Baptist Home. “It’s come along,” she added of the massive project. “We can’t wait to get in there.”

A resident for nearly four years, Blackwell, a Fauquier County native, moved to The Culpeper four years ago following a federal government career with the Department of the Army.

“It’s great living here at this point in my life, ” she said. “They take care of everything.”

The Culpeper is the closest continuing care retirement community to the Fredericksburg area that provides all levels of care, from independent to assisted living.

GRAND OPENING

Starting Tuesday, the 132 residents in the original structure will be moved into new apartments and suites in the new building. The Culpeper hired a professional moving specialist company to do all the planning and heavy lifting.

A grand opening celebration has been set for May 10—two years to the date of the groundbreaking, according to Rose Meeks Wallace, director of marketing at The Culpeper.

The old brick structure that was built in the late 1940s will be razed by late May or early June. The new facility, which is about 20,000 square feet larger, will face in the opposite direction of the old, providing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and an easier main entrance off State Route 299.

All connected, the expansive building on five levels will have 133 residential units, including 32 “memory care” rooms for folks living with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia disorders. Some of the rooms will be occupied by couples, and the facility will retain its 27 “independent living” cottages.

The new building will have a dining room with a cathedral ceiling, as well as exhibition cooking for watching chefs prepare meals, various outdoor terraces, more than a mile of sidewalks and a spa where residents can have their hair or nails done.

There will be various shared spaces, including well-equipped country kitchens and living rooms with fireplaces and big screen TVs, a therapy gym, library, game room and the Village Café. There will be an on-site clinic, as well as options for long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapies.

“You can move into this community and really, it is like its own little small town, ” said Wallace during a tour of the job site.

JOB GENERATOR

All told, the construction project employed 476 people representing 49 different trades, according to project manager Scott Brame, of Richmond, with WM Jordan Co. For its size, the job has gone smoothly, not including the historic rain, he said.

“The weather has been phenomenally bad,” Brame said. “We went through the most weather-sensitive activities during the worst weather I’ve seen since I’ve lived in Virginia and I’ve lived here 25 years. It was a constant day-to-day struggle.”

In spite of the rain, the job was kept relatively on track, schedule-wise, by doing lots of work on weekends and after-hours.

“We’ve had a good team effort, ” Brame said. “I’m happy with where we are right now.”

The Culpeper Executive Director Jim Jacobsen said the residents—aged 72 to 103 with an average age of 84—have had a vested interest in the project from its start.

“They were completely involved from day one, ” he said. “Three, four years ago we involved them in talking about the new building, and what they would like to see. We got their families engaged and involved. They wanted the exterior to look like the building today and they wanted memory care, which is not available today. It was custom built from day one with input from staff and residents.”

Once fully operational, The Culpeper will generate about 45 new jobs, adding to the current workforce of 140 employees, sad Jacobsen.

“Because of our history here being 70 years, we want to continue the opportunities for employment and providing many, many homes for seniors, ” he said. “With this project, we want to continue that for 70 more years.”

BY THE NUMBERS

While the new building certainly looks different than the old one, The Culpeper was built in the same Georgian style with dormers, columns and a cupola. Its hallways go on and on, linking to numerous smaller structures contained within themselves. The project features 784 windows, 980 doors and more than 41 miles of cable TV, security, phone and data wire. The building has 103 miles of electrical wire and near 800,000-square-feet of drywall, according to Brame.

Asked about what it costs to live at The Culpeper, Jacobsen said all residents are age- and financially qualified and that the price varies depending on accommodations provided. The executive director added that the fee structure is “market rate” and comparable to other similar facilities.

The Culpeper has a five-star rating from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and it is a nonprofit, faith-based community.

With all the modernization and improvements coming to The Culpeper, the big news for residents, agreed Jacobsen, is the new temperature control they will gain, noting that is lacking in the old building with its centralized gauge.

“Individual thermostats in each room are a big hit with residents. It’s one of the main things, ” he said.

Longtime resident Sara Gallagher has lived in a private cottage on the grounds of the retirement community for nearly 18 years. A retired hospital lab technician, the 88-year-old moved there for the security aspect after her husband died and she was still working, sometimes late hours. Asked about the old building set for demolition, Gallagher said she would not shed any tears over it.

“But it will be sad to see it gone because it’s been here for 70 years,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be fantastic a change from what it was back then.”

Fellow resident Blackwell said the retirement community is small enough that everybody knows most everybody else. Most residents get along, for the most part, she added.

“They are compatible, ” Blackwell said. “It’s like a family—you do like some more than others.”

Allison Brophy Champion: 540/825-4315

abrophy@starexponent.com

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