In a response to growing demand for senior independent housing, Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg is currently undergoing a $24 million renovation to add 26 new modern independent-living apartments, a new parking deck and renovations to assisted living and to a dining room on its campus on VES Road.
Each apartment has already been pre-sold. Work began this summer and is anticipated to be completed by the end of next year.
“Nationwide, you’re seeing the demand for housing like this spike,” said Sean Huyett, president and CEO of Westminster Canterbury. “And it’s interesting though, at the same time as we’re building these 26 units, we’ve gotten a little smaller across the campus.”
When WCL was built, it had 100 studios, and people aren’t interested in those like they used to be, he said. Over the past 15 years, the facility has been merging studios to create a two-bedroom apartment or a one-bedroom apartment with a den.
“So we’ve gotten smaller to the tune of probably 13 or 14 homes here at Creekside and Brookhaven,” he said, referring to apartments at WCL, “and the need for more living spaces like this for this group of people is growing.”
When WCL opened its $40 million Drinkard building in 2019, giving a new home to more than 80 residents, the facility vacated three floors in the Riverside and Hearthside buildings, Huyett said.
The fifth-floor assisted-living neighborhood of the Hearthside building is already complete with residents moved into the space in September.
Renovations in this building have now moved to the fourth floor and eventually will move to the third floor.
Westminster will be converting the top three floors of the original Drinkard building — renamed “Riverside” — into 26 new independent-living apartments and creating new suites and single rooms within the three floors of the Hearthside assisted living neighborhoods, Huyett said.
The units — most of them with two bedrooms — will range from 800 to 1,600 square feet and most will feature balconies.
All 26 units will have between 35 to 38 people moving in when they are complete next year. Along with that, a new parking deck will be built starting this month, and construction is expected to take nine months.
It’s always been the plan for Bill Davidson, 81, and his wife, Gena, 79, to move into one of the independent apartments at Westminster, especially since Davidson’s uncle, Buster Baldwin, an estate lawyer helped to secure funding for the retirement community in the 1970s.
The Davidsons said they gave Westminster a deposit to reserve an apartment knowing they would one day move in and wanted to be able to pick the kind of apartment they wanted.
He said the primary benefits of the move will be not having to keep up with a house or yard and also not having to prepare three meals per day.
“Plus we already know a lot of people over there already,” he said. “I think this is a good time to move because we can pick out a place and 25 other families are moving into the same building. So it’ll be an opportunity to make a lot of new friends.”
Davidson said he attended Virginia Episcopal School, which is located behind the community, and is excited to keep up with the happenings and sports there.
When completed, the Riverside exterior will look similar to the new Drinkard Center with more glass and metal accents. Additional parking will be constructed adjacent to the building.
In Hearthside, all common areas, including resident lounges, lobbies and team member support locations, will be redesigned and refreshed with paint, carpet and furnishings.
“So all of assisted living all gets a complete renovation, completely new facelift, tearing out ceiling tiles, repainting, gutting and renovating new common areas, doing away with the old traditional nursing stations in those assisted living areas,” Huyett said.
Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg current has 440 people living on the property. The facility offers independent living, assisted living, memory care and rehabilitation services.
Huyett said most residents try to live in independent living as long as they can as they want to maintain their sense of freedom, keep their car and come and go as they please.
“So they may live out in the cottage on our campus or in these apartments and they try to maintain independence as long as they can. So then what happens is, they almost skip assisted living and end up in a health care building if they need that.”
Margaret Sellick lives in a one-bedroom assisted-living apartment that was once the beauty salon.
During the renovations, the salon was relocated and the space made into two apartments. Sellick just moved in a few months ago and couldn’t be more excited.
“I am overwhelmed with what they did in here,” she said proudly in her apartment, which features a kitchen, joint living and dining room, foyer, bedroom and bathroom. “Look at it, it’s perfect. It couldn’t be better.”
She said is happy to have her own space with her own personal belongs and loves everyone in the facility.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It’s been hard, but everyone who works here has been really wonderful, they’re always asking if I need anything, I’m very, very lucky.”
"Nationwide, you're seeing demand for housing like this spike."
— Sean Huyett, president and CEO of Westminster Canterbury on the community's new apartments