Presbyterian SeniorCare's newest senior living community on schedule despite pandemic

Paul J. Gough
Pittsburgh Business Times

The construction of a Washington County senior living complex, which had been delayed for a few months by the Covid-19 pandemic, is back on track and scheduled for completion only a few weeks behind the plan.

Encore on the Lake, which is being built adjacent to Canonsburg Lake in North Strabane Township, offers 80 one- and two-bedroom apartments for people over 62 by Presbyterian SeniorCare Network affiliate Encore Living Group. The development is Presbyterian SeniorCare's first foray into independent living for middle-income seniors.

Construction was expected to begin in either February or March, but the Covid-19 pandemic intervened. Presbyterian SeniorCare officials, working with Mistick Construction, decided to wait until they were sure the construction could be done safely before beginning. That happened in May, when the state's construction ban was lifted.

"We embraced Mistick's ideas (on how to safely begin construction) and the mandates," said Jim Pieffer, SVP of Presbyterian SeniorCare. "We're actually only a little behind our schedule by maybe a month even though we started about two and a half months later."

The first residents are scheduled to move in fall 2021, likely in September instead of August like previously set. Encore on the Lake is now in the midst of reserving the remainder of the 80 apartments on site. The project was coordinated by HJ Sims and funded by FNB Bank and Washington National Bank.

The design of Encore on the Lake, which was done by Minnesota-based Pope Architects, hasn't had to undergo radical changes due to what has been learned in the first seven months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pieffer said Pope Architects have done about 40 similar projects and already incorporated a lot of features that are now even more important.

"Because these are all independent apartments and they're designed specifically to help seniors to age in place safely, we didn't have to make a lot of changes to the design," Pieffer said.

There are some pandemic-related changes, however. They're looking to enhance the HVAC systems to add more purification and they're going to increase touchless features on faucets and fixtures in common places. They also could increase electronic visitor screenings, which feature automatic temperature checks, as are done in some of Presbyterian SeniorCare's congregate settings.

Pieffer said that some features of Encore on the Lake have had the pandemic factored in. There's already a lot of outdoor common space and during good weather there are a lot of opportunities for outdoor dining and activities with spacing, and with its bistro setup, tables can be physically distanced. It will be working on virtual fitness and wellness opportunities as well.

"I feel good that our design will accommodate the issues that we're facing in the pandemic world," Pieffer said.

Pieffer said that one of his concerns during the pandemic had been whether seniors would be reticent to move into independent living. But he said that people have moved in at almost normal rates over the last seven months, something he attributes to people looking for a sense of security and community.

"During this time, even if we can't provide all the services we normally do in the way we do, I think people see the value of being part of a community, having support, being part of a long-term care system if and when they need it," Pieffer said.