Though there aren’t even drawings, the ink is already on the page for the Jewish Association on Aging’s newest venture, with plans underway for the construction of a multistory independent living tower on the JAA’s campus.
The project, which will cost between $20 million and $30 million, is the second step in a three-part initiative outlined by a strategic planning process administered roughly two years ago under the leadership of current JAA board chair Mitchell Pakler, said Deborah Winn-Horvitz, JAA’s president and CEO.
The first priority was to “bring a state-of-the-art memory-care facility to our community, which we have done with AHAVA.”
“We want to achieve the same level of excellence in this project,” echoed Andrew Stewart, JAA’s chair of the facilities committee.
In doing so, the JAA is turning to architect Daniel Rothschild, president of Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, a 27-person firm located in the Strip District, to design the independent living space.
“We have spent the past year and a half doing a lot of due diligence in support of this project, such as undertaking market studies, focus groups and financial analysis,” said Winn-Horvitz.
What that research has revealed is that “baby boomers have a very different opinion on what their aging experience should be like. They typically want to be more in control.”
To satisfy those demands, Winn-Horvitz and Rothschild are seeking to create “an apartment for life” that looks less like “an institutionalized environment” and more similar to “a home environment,” Winn-Horvitz said.
Though the nitty-gritties have yet to be spelled out, this “could be everything from the height of the drawers and fixtures to ensuring the appropriate amount of natural sunlight.”
From a technology, design and supportive services standpoint, we are wrapping our arms around the people to support them in their own home.
The goal is to “create something that is very forward looking and gives our community a residential resource for our elders to age in place, while availing themselves to the latest in technology, the best practices in management and the access to all of the services that the JAA can provide,” said Stewart.
In achieving that task, the JAA will make use of the “latest in technology,” explained Winn-Horvitz. Examples might include floor sensors to alert staff in the event of a fall or to notify monitors of a change in a resident’s gait “so we can potentially anticipate if that person may fall.”
Similarly, the building will boast a “wellness center” complete with “a care navigator who will help residents navigate the health care system.”
“The goal is to create a new experience that doesn’t exist in this region,” said Rothschild.
“From a technology, design and supportive services standpoint, we are wrapping our arms around the people to support them in their own home,” added Winn-Horvitz.
Though certain details regarding the project — such as a timeline — remain uncertain, a unanimous decision was made by the board to build on the current JAA campus, explained Rothschild.
“The project is going to be located on a spectacular site with outstanding views of nature including a river valley and wooded slope, and it will be a contemporary environmentally inspired design, so the site is really something very special,” Rothschild said.
Part of the project will be funded by money raised through the JAA’s capital campaign — the third step in the strategic planning process, explained Winn-Horvitz. “Our goal is $18 million; we’ve raised approximately $10 million toward that. We’ve had some tremendous community support.”
From that $18 million, $5 million will go toward the independent living project, she added. “We know that we will need to leverage some debt against this project, but we need to have some community support as well.”
The independent living project’s importance is clear, said those involved.
“It is honoring our community by creating a new type of living experience that doesn’t exist, and it will be part of the JAA campus, which is the gold standard in our community,” said Rothschild.
Winn-Horvitz agreed: “This is a project that is critically important for the future of the organization to ensure that there will be a Jewish health care option for our community.” PJC
This story has been updated to correct that Daniel Rothschild was not involved in the AHAVA memory-care center. The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle regrets this error.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburgh