If you haven’t driven past the Oak Hill senior care center recently, you’re in for a surprise next time you do.
After weeks of earnest site preparation, excavation, concrete pad pouring and plumbing installation, suddenly, there’s a building. It is the future Evergreen Pointe transitional care facility.
Once foundation work was completed, Holland Construction on-site project superintendent Roger Kinzinger explained, wall sections fabricated off-site were brought in and swiftly erected.
Last week, prefabricated roof trusses were delivered and started going up as soon as they came off the truck.
The Republic-Times toured the rapidly emerging project at 623 Hamacher Street with Kinzinger and Oak Hill Director Kim Keckritz.
The completed facility will comprise some 13,000 square feet and provide 14 private rooms for short-term transition care residents needing rehabilitation services to resume their lives, following surgery, injury, or serious illness.
Keckritz explained the reasoning for adding the facility.
“There is simply a need for this service for people to be able to return home and to active lives. Now, most are staying in St. Louis for this service. That means long drives for families,” she pointed out.
“Bringing this service here is a great benefit to the citizens of Monroe County.”
The project is also answering another critical need for Oak Hill by providing seven additional private residence rooms comprising about 3,000 square feet for longer term residents.
Concerning the latter rooms, Keckritz explained that when she was walking a prospective architect through Oak Hill, she explained that private rooms were in great demand, with virtually a 100 percent occupancy rate and a lengthy waiting list.
“The architect told me I should consider adding several private rooms at the same time as the transitional care unit, as the cost would be much lower than if we did this later. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made, and we decided to do that, too,” she said.
Good weather has helped move work ahead swiftly. Kinzinger said they have lost only nine days of work to adverse weather since ground was broken on Sept. 19.
As work installing roof trusses went ahead Thursday, winds increased until the crane operator said they were creating dangerous working conditions and shut the large crane down.
“But these workers moved to the old way immediately,” said Kinzinger, himself a union carpenter, “and they started manhandling trusses and sliding them up on the roof to complete the first section of framing by hand.
“We are on budget. We are on schedule,” he added.
Evergreen Pointe will include the aforementioned 14 residence rooms, a kitchen, lobby area and nursing station, and the necessary rehabilitation facilities.
The structure also surrounds an open air area that will offer additional rehabilitation areas for persons needing to redevelop the ability to walk safely on a variety of outdoor surfaces, such as gravel, brick walks, cement and grass, Keckritz explained.
The only two downsides to date have been the disruption to the previous road around Oak Hill, and the temporary loss of four long-term care rooms at the construction interface between the buildings.
“We already have an occupancy rate of about 98 percent,” Keckritz explained. “We hated to surrender any rooms, even temporarily. But the interface between the areas made it necessary.”
Asked when Evergreen Pointe would be completed, early May was the response — weather permitting. Keckritz said she has not brought the facility into her budget projections until September, though, as permission from the Illinois Department of Public Health must be secured before patients can be accepted.
“We hope to be ready sooner, but I want to be conservative in planning,” Keckritz explained.
Attention to solid construction and detail is evident throughout. Kinzinger identified the engineering underlying the project as superb.
“It is a quality concept, supported by quality engineering and being carried out with quality construction,” he emphasized.
He said that once the roof is closed in and windows and doors are installed, work will focus on interior completion.
“I’m going to be here for the duration of construction and then will be on call for a year after that while Holland maintains a warranty period. I am very focused on doing this job to the best possible extent, because I’m the one who has to fix it if anything is done wrong,” he said with obvious pride.
Keckritz spoke of the entire Oak Hill facility at the end of the visit.
“Although there are very good private facilities in the region,” Keckritz said, “in the end, they must answer to ownership, and the owners want to capture at least some of the profits in return for their investments. We at Oak Hill see our mission as providing a service to the community. We are realizing profits above our costs of paying for the facility and operating it, but we are putting those profits back into Oak Hill and the service it provides. They make things better here, for our citizens.”
Another service is coming for area citizens for sure, as Oak Hill grows its capabilities.
“We are trying to see the future, to anticipate the needs,” Keckritz said. Based on the recent 5-star rating marking Oak Hill as one of the top such facilities nationwide, they are delivering.
Drive by and watch it happening.