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North Country Health Services: WoodsEdge adds WindSong apartments to Trillium and Neilson Place

Barbara Siler of rural Bemidji helped her mother, Ruth Koenig, 94, right, move last week into a two-bedroom-two-bathroom apartment at WindSong, the new North Country Health Services catered living complex. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Movie theater, library, heated garage, craft and woodworking shops - tenants have a wide range of options at the new North Country Health Services WindSong catered senior living apartments.

WindSong opened Nov. 19 as part of the WoodsEdge complex on Anne Street Northwest. The building connects with Neilson Place and Trillium secure memory care unit, which is designed for people with Alzheimer's and dementia.

WindSong will hold a dedication at 10 a.m. Sunday in the WoodsEdge Chapel at Neilson Place followed by an open house from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will be a brunch buffet, door prizes, tours, entertainment and a program at noon. Paul Hanson, NCHS president and CEO, will be on hand to greet guests.

"We want to get as many people as possible in to see the building," said Hayley McKeon, marketing coordinator. "We want it to be more of a community destination."

The WindSong dining room looks like a classy restaurant and offers choices of meals prepared by Chef Ed Harapat. Mealtimes are also at the discretion of tenants.

"It's very different from traditional assisted living," McKeon said. "There are some places where you still have assigned seating. We want people to have choices."

The WindSong fireplace lounge reflects a Bemidji Curling Club theme. The party room décor is reminiscent of a country home. A beauty parlor and barber shop provide hair care. The fitness room offers stair-steppers, treadmills, a Wii Fit console and weight machines. Wireless Internet is available throughout the building, and banking service is in-house.

"We have a bar downstairs, a pub lounge with liquor lockers," said.

So, Activity Director Sandy Hennum arranges happy hours as well as welcome teas.

Designer Jill Schroeder of the Twin Cities firm of Pope Architects framed the 80 apartments on 21 different floor plans. One-bedroom apartments range in size from 600-925 square feet and cost $1,600-$2,000 per month; one-bedroom apartment with a den are 800-1,000 square feet and cost $1,875-$2,200 per month; and two bedroom apartments with two baths are 900-1,500 square feet and cost $1,875-$2,500 per month. The monthly rent includes all utilities, basic cable and wireless Internet, 15 meals, housekeeping, emergency response systems, 24-hour on-site staff, activities, maintenance and a security system. Guest suites cost $65 per night. Housing Director Gina Heuer said the basic cable package is 10 channels, but tenants can order 60 channels for $10 extra per month.

"We did have a guy who wouldn't move in without the NFL ticket, so thankfully we had that package for him," McKeon said.

And pets are welcome.

Catered living is flexible and serves people ranging from those who are completely independent to those who need nursing assistance. That means tenants don't pay for services they don't need. The age range for tenants is 62 and older.

"The whole design of this is to go with the feeling of home, not an institution," McKeon said. "We want people to live with us while they can still enjoy it. This would hopefully be their last move."

That is the plan Ruth Koenig, had when she moved in Nov. 22 from her home near St. Louis, Mo. She said her daughter, Barbara Siler, who lives near Lake Movil, made the rental arrangements for her.

"I had no idea where I was coming," Koenig said. "I think this place is comfortable. The meals have been wonderful here."

She said she had to ask Chef Harapat for smaller portions.

Koenig takes lunch and supper in the dining room, but prepares her own breakfast in her kitchen. She rented one of the two-bedroom corner apartments that feature balcony porches.

Bill Britton moved into a one-bedroom apartment with den. He keeps his car in the garage and is happy he can walk to Neilson place to visit his wife, Henrietta.

McKeon said 11 apartments were rented with the biggest ones most in demand.

"People actually want a lot of space," she said.

Each apartment features a full kitchen with dishwasher, a washer, dryer and independent heating unit so people can set the temperature to suit themselves. The apartments are furnished with emergency call systems and QuietCare, wireless motion sensors that report to a base station any unusual activity or inactivity.

Kraus Anderson, the general contractor, broke ground for WindSong in September 2008 for what Chuck Jensen, director of general services, said will be the first certified Leadership Energy Efficient Design senior living complex in Minnesota. LEED certification is awarded to buildings that are eco-friendly and conservative in energy consumption.

He said WindSong is heated and cooled by 120 200-foot-deep geothermal wells, which also supply the apartments with hot water. There are three small gas-fired boilers in the building - one for sterilizing dishes in the kitchen, one to keep the driveway to the underground garage from icing up and one for backup.

"We will save a lot of energy over the years; that will be a quick payback for a big investment," Jensen said of the geothermal system.

The building materials came from a radius of no more than 500 miles to save on transport and fuel. And three trees were planted to replace each tree cut for lumber. Concrete surfaces are limited and green space is emphasized to restrict light reflection. Outside lights are also focused downwards to cut light pollution.

"There was an actual lighting engineer who designed all that," Jensen said.

To visitors and tenants, some of the most obvious reuse-recycle aspects of WindSong are the art objects. The entrance lobby features a sculpture made from an old barn door and the wooden grain elevator from an antique threshing machine. Other decorations are also made from "old-into-new" materials.

"We tried to use recycled as much as possible," said Jensen.