Cottage may open its doors to senior housing

By: K. Michelle Moran, | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 2, 2011

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Seniors may soon have yet another option to stay in the Pointes even if their health means they have to give up their home.

American House Senior Living Communities and the Southfield-based real estate development firm REDICO recently signed a letter of intent to develop senior housing at Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage, located at 159 Kercheval on the Hill.

Cottage and American House are considering converting the second and third floors to one- and two-bedroom private apartments and studios for seniors who can live independently; one- and two-bedroom private apartments and studios for seniors who need some assistance and care; and one-bedroom and studio apartments for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and similar memory-related conditions, according to a Cottage spokesperson. They’re looking at creating roughly 50 or more such apartments, said Paul Szilagyi, regional vice president of primary care and medical center for Henry Ford Medical System.

 Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage in Grosse Pointe Farms is hoping to create senior studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments such as these through a partnership with American House Senior Living Communities and REDICO. The apartments would be on the second and third floors of Cottage and would offer independent and care-based living arrangements, depending on the needs of each resident.

Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage in Grosse Pointe Farms is hoping to create senior studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments such as these through a partnership with American House Senior Living Communities and REDICO. The apartments would be on the second and third floors of Cottage and would offer independent and care-based living arrangements, depending on the needs of each resident.

Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Health System/American House Senior Living Communities

“The whole idea is how to better serve the community,” Szilagyi said. “We’re trying to take care of a broad (age) range. … There are lots of seniors in the community.”

If finalized, Szilagyi said, American House would essentially purchase the second and third floors of Cottage and run those as its own facility. This would be American House’s first senior housing project inside of an existing health care building. Other hospitals have created facilities like this in separate buildings, but Szilagyi said this would be the first time a project like this would be so interconnected. American House has 27 properties in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Genesee counties that serve more than 2,700 seniors.

Besides medical services at Cottage, residents would also be able to receive medical attention across the street at the Henry Ford Medical Center-Pierson facility. The Pierson facility recently opened a senior assessment center for the evaluation and treatment of age-related conditions, Cottage officials said.

Szilagyi said they’re in the due diligence phase now. He said they hope to break ground in the spring and be fully operational by spring 2013. Szilagyi said they want the renovations to make the interior look like a home, not a hospital. Most of the work would take place inside, although Szilagyi said they would also have to build a separate entrance and lobby for residents. The fact that hospital patient rooms are already set up like a studio apartment, with a “bedroom” and bathroom, should make the conversion easier, he said.

The proposed project dovetails nicely with developments at the nonprofit Services for Older Citizens. SOC — which had been housed at the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe City until that facility was closed this summer to make way for a new Neighborhood Club building — has temporarily taken up residence in Cottage, but will be moving to an adjacent facility in the future. SOC’s new home, the Newberry Residence behind Cottage on Ridge Road in the Farms, is undergoing renovations to become a stand-alone facility for senior programs and services. A gift from Henry Ford Health System to SOC, the Newberry Residence is expected to provide SOC with a 10,000-square-foot building that will enable it to better accommodate the needs of the growing eastside senior population.

SOC’s proximity to Cottage and the proposed senior housing at the former hospital is one of the reasons why Cottage officials believe theirs is an ideal location for senior residences.

“Our experience with SOC has been so good, we saw this as a positive move,” Szilagyi said.

Even with the forthcoming The Rivers Grosse Pointe in Grosse Pointe Woods, supporters of the Cottage proposal say their market studies show there’s still a need for more senior housing in the community.

“This unique, state-of-the-art facility will provide well-deserved autonomy to seniors in the community,” said Dale Watchowski, president and CEO of American House and REDICO, in a press release. “The relationship with Cottage is ideal in that the seniors will have a new level of independence with immediate access to medical, retail, and the Services for Older Citizens, all in a village environment.”

City Manager Shane Reeside said Farms officials have thus far only informally discussed the proposal with Cottage representatives. On the surface, he said, it sounds like a good fit for community service use and the Hill district, which could benefit from additional nearby residents and their guests frequenting the shops and restaurants that are just steps away from Cottage.

“Conceptually, I think it could be a real positive for the community and provide a great location for seniors, for senior housing,” Reeside said.

Hill parking is always at a premium, but Szilagyi said they already have adequate parking for residents, caregivers and guests for this project, with Cottage’s surface lots and attached parking garage. The parking deck could also be expanded in the future if needed, he said. Szilagyi said they have more empty parking spaces than the proposed number of units, and some of the senior residents wouldn’t have cars.

Although Cottage is still an ambulatory facility and provides emergency and other medical services, it’s no longer classified as a hospital, said David Olejarz, a spokesperson for Henry Ford Health System. The only surgical procedures it offers are on an outpatient basis, as the maximum stay at Cottage is now 23 hours, he said. If the senior housing project is approved, Cottage would continue to offer radiology, women’s health services, cancer care, rehabilitation, ambulatory surgery, lab services, infusion services and 24-hour emergency care, according to Cottage officials. Cottage became a multi-specialty outpatient center in January 2010.