Ramsey senior home project breaks ground

A lot has changed since Terry Howard’s father got into the senior management health care business over 50 years ago.

First Phoenix Group of Minneapolis, Lord of Life Lutheran Church and others who have been and will be involved in the process of bringing the Stoney River senior living facility to Ramsey broke ground Sept. 25 on property just east of the church.
First Phoenix Group of Minneapolis, Lord of Life Lutheran Church and others who have been and will be involved in the process of bringing the Stoney River senior living facility to Ramsey broke ground Sept. 25 on property just east of the church. Photo by Eric Hagen

Howard said past generations “came right out of agriculture, came right out of factory manufacturing and were happy as long as they had a clean room and three meals a day.” Thus, the old nursing home facilities were adequate enough.

Howard said the baby boomer generation have different requirements and with this generation aging fast, the senior living facility experience is fast changing with the times.

Howard is president and chief executive officer of First Phoenix Group, which on Sept. 25 broke ground on a 72-unit Stoney River senior living facility next to Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ramsey.

Residents in the nine independent living suites, 39 assisted living apartments and 24 memory care units will have access to four fireplace community rooms, a chapel, billiards room with a pub, dining room, outdoor porches, spa with beauty parlor and exercise room, a bakery and a home theater room with a 60-inch screen.

Similar to First Phoenix Group’s other two communities in Marshfield and Weston, Wis., Ramsey’s Stoney River residents will be able to take field trips to go shopping, dining, watch a movie, fish, dance or whatever else they would like to try.

“People are coming to senior living (facilities) to live, not to just sit and wait for time to pass and the more engagement and activities and amenities that we can bring to our residents, research has showed the longer life span they’re going to have and the more happy emotionally they will be,” said David Kieffer, managing director of First Phoenix Group.

This vision has been three years in the making between the Minneapolis-based First Phoenix Group and Ramsey’s Lord of Life Lutheran Church.

The church council about three years ago began working with the private developer to buy and develop on a site just east of the church on the north side of Nowthen Boulevard, just east of Highway 47, according to church council member Dayton Ward of Mounds View. He has heard that some church members are planning to reserve a room when registration opens.

Kieffer said that will happen in the spring and there are already about 75 people “that are anxious to get on the wait list.”

The facility will be managed by LifeQuest, which Howard owns, but First Phoenix Group will form a long-term venture with Sabra Health Care REIT, Inc., which is a real estate investment trust company that specializes in health care, according to Kieffer.

“The (resident) is going to have the same administrator, the same nurse, the same caregiver. They’re not going to feel any difference whatsoever regarding ownership,” he said.

What attracted First Phoenix Group to Ramsey was its lack of any other senior living facilities, and the new Veterans Administration and Allina outpatient clinics, Kieffer said.

“It’s a city of 20,000 people with an aging demographic,” Fisher said. “As we surveyed the entire state from as far north as Warroad to as far as Iowa (border), the screaming demand was here in Ramsey. People are loyal to Ramsey, they want to stay in Ramsey.”

Joe Fisher of Andover, president of the church council, said the partnership between First Phoenix Group and Lord of Life Lutheran Church was “a marriage made in heaven.”

“Stoney River will provide the physical and mental services for the community. We’ll be there for the spiritual healing of the heart and calming of the head,” Fisher said.

Designing a home

Howard recently toured a new senior living facility in Minneapolis and while it was already 75 percent occupied, he did not get to meet a lot of the residents because many were behind closed doors along long hallways.

“It feels like an apartment. It doesn’t feel like a home,” Howard said of the Minneapolis facility, which is what Stoney River avoids in its building design by not having long hallways. The longest corridor goes by the spa, salon, gym and the other common spaces.

“There’s a much larger percentage of common space in our building than you’ll find anywhere,” Howard said. “People don’t live in hallways. That’s not natural.”

Lois Markwardt of Markwardt Design in Marshfield, Wis., designs the interior so each common area has a unique feeling.

“They’re different colors, there’s different furniture,” she said.

Every room can be set up individually by residents and their families to incorporate trinkets, pictures and other memorable items from their previous home.

The Dutch Colonial design on the exterior of the building is a signature element of all Stoney River developments that Howard came up with, which will resemble the archway of a barn to some people who grew up in agricultural areas of the country, Howard said.

“They do a wonderful job of lighting their buildings so that they’re always welcoming. When you drive by it looks warm,” Markwardt said.

Eric Hagen is at
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