Gov. Helps Fête Opening At Morgan Orchards

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Front Page / Sep. 28, 2017 9:13am EDT

Phase II of Gifford Senior Living Project Now Complete
By Tim Calabro


Phase II of Gifford’s Morgan Orchards project in Randolph Center, an independent living apartment complex, was ceremonially opened Tuesday afternoon. (Herald / Tim Calabro) Phase II of Gifford’s Morgan Orchards project in Randolph Center, an independent living apartment complex, was ceremonially opened Tuesday afternoon. (Herald / Tim Calabro) Governor Phil Scott, who was present in 2015 to cut the ribbon inaugurating Gifford’s expansion of its Menig Nursing Home in Randolph Center, reprised the role this week at the opening of the second phase of the hospital’s Morgan Orchards senior living project.

The governor heaped praise on hospital staff during Tuesday afternoon’s event, calling the senior living facility a boon to the local community and to the state economy. The newly opened Strode Independent Living Building, a 49-unit apartment complex, was named for a Brookfield couple. Construction on the 70,000-square foot, three-story building employed more than 80 tradesmen and women, he said, and “the project contributed to the state economy as well, with all but three of the 32 project vendors being Vermont companies.”

The building, visible against the Randolph Center ridge-line from Route 66, was completed last month and its first wave of residents moved in on August 15.

The celebratory opening of the building drew dozens to the common space overlooking the Braintree range to listen to remarks from hospital administrators and distinguished guests.

The gathering was held in the Strode Building’s main foyer and was proceeded by a banquet in the dining room downstairs. As the crowd awaited the beginning of the formal ceremony, residents that had already moved in shared their glee with the building, and eyes were continually drawn to the magnificent vista seen through a panorama of windows on the building’s west side.

In his speech, Gifford CEO Dan Bennett, who took the helm of the hospital nearly a year ago, applauded the hospital’s vision in creating the Randolph Center senior housing complex.

As the Menig Nursing home began to outgrow its space inside the hospital building, Bennett said, “Gifford’s outside-the-box thinking process transformed a building expansion project into a vision for a totally new community.”

The Strode Independent Living Building is named for Ellie and Larry Strode, who have lived in Brookfield for about 40 years.

“They were part of the early discussions at neighborhood gatherings,” Bennett said, “where people worried that we were losing valued community members because we lacked local senior living options.”

Those meetings in 2012 were the first step, he said, in Gifford’s senior living community, which will be complete once a third and final project is built—an assisted living facility. This component will provide intermediate care for those not able to live on their own, but not yet ready for full nursing home care.

Work is already underway for the third phase, but construction has not yet been scheduled.

Weathering Turbulence

Locals have not been universally jubilant about Gifford’s project on the hill.

Morgan Orchards met with stiff opposition during its Act 250 permit review and was redesigned multiple times due to requirements for preservation of prime agricultural soils on which the buildings were constructed. The project has been also criticized in Randolph Center for interfering with the scenic views of the neighborhood and for the added light pollution to the historic village.

Letters to the editor in The Herald have both extolled the project for providing a local housing opportunity to area seniors, and condemned it for its pricing structure.

Gifford currently offers two payment models for residents. One includes an upfront entry fee and smaller monthly payments. At the end of residence, 80% of the entry fee is refunded. The second model is a straight rental agreement with higher monthly payments.

At present, 11 of the independent living building’s 49 apartments have been occupied. Many have also reserved space on a waiting list, in hopes of moving in when the need arises.

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