Neck housing complex with a view set to open


It doesn’t take a million dollars to have a million dollar view. In fact, if you’re not 62 or older and make more than $42,350, forget the view from Saint Elizabeth Terrace, a 34-unit two-story housing complex facing Warwick Cove.

Saint Elizabeth Terrace, which is awaiting a certificate of occupancy before welcoming tenants as soon as this month, is the latest link in the continuum of services offered by Cornerstone Adult Services and Saint Elizabeth Communities.

The concept of the terrace, says Roberta Merkle during a tour of the new building, “is for people to age in a place that is their home.”

To that end, the units that are about 600 square feet are designed to be easily accessible. Doorways are wide to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. The bathrooms don’t have tubs, but rather walk-in showers with seats, and sink vanities can be easily customized for someone in a wheelchair.

The building is airy, full of light and with common facilities where tenants can get together. There’s parking for 34 cars, locked storage for Christmas decorations and the like and on-site washers and dryers. Some of the units are specifically for the disabled but, overall, the terrace is not designed to be a complement to the neighboring Cornerstone Alzheimer’s Care Center. Terrace tenants will be independent of the center, although, as Merkle notes, its proximity ensures there’s assistance close by if needed and it’s conceivable that some Terrace tenants may end up volunteering at the Center.

Pets are welcome, as long as they aren’t too big.

“This was the vision for this land,” Merkle said of the 3-acre parcel on Warwick Neck. The former executive director of Cornerstone, Merkle is now Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Saint Elizabeth Community. For many years Cornerstone, which also has adult day care centers in Apponaug, Coventry, Little Compton and Bristol, operated its Alzheimer’s day care unit from the former church. After a successful capital campaign, Cornerstone razed the church building and built the current Alzheimer’s Care Center that opened 10 years ago. That still left a major portion of the site undeveloped.

After Cornerstone affiliated with Saint Elizabeth Community, Saint Elizabeth was awarded a $5.2 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to build the terrace. The project, built by Carlson Corp., has come in on budget but because of last winter’s many snowstorms; completion was delayed by about three months.

According to Kenneth Cote, administrator of the 150-unit Saint Elizabeth Place in Providence, who will also administer the terrace, the project comes under the PRAC 202 program, or a Project Rental Assistance Contract. The full rent for units is $983 a month, but tenants pay a third of their income less medical costs. To be eligible, tenants must be 62 or older and the maximum an individual can earn is $42,350. The limit for a couple is $48,400. Leases are for a year.

Merkle sees the housing as another step in the range of services provided to the elderly by Saint Elizabeth Community. And she imagines yet another avenue for Saint Elizabeth, the Green House model of care, as an alternative to the conventional nursing home.

That model is like an expanded personal home with 10 to 12 patients. Tenants gather for meals and may even help prepare them. A small care team works at each home, developing relationships with tenants. In situations where health deteriorates and end of life decisions must be made, tenants stay in the home and hospice may come on site.

Merkle said she visited a green house in Albany, N.Y. and felt uncomfortable.

“I felt like I was walking into someone’s house, which I suppose is a good thing,” she said. “It’s a whole culture change.”

Merkle said Saint Elizabeth would probably build a new facility if it proceeds with the Green House model.

For the moment, the terrace offers the opportunity for people of modest means to age in place in their home. Cote said Saint Elizabeth had no trouble filling the 34 units and a waiting list. Predictably, everyone would like a view of the cove.


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