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LAWRENCE COUNTY Developer buys land for facility for elderly



Published: Thu, August 2, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It will take about 16 months to build the facility, the developer said.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Land that once housed a farm for indigent people in Lawrence County will soon become a multimillion-dollar independent living and care facility for the elderly.

James Rusnov, president of National Commonlife Communities LLC, announced his plans Wednesday to buy and develop 22 acres of county-owned land on state Route 65 in Shenango Township.

County officials sold the land, which is adjacent to the county nursing home Hillview Manor, to Rusnov for $525,000.

Rusnov said he expects to spend $15 million to $17 million on the first phase of development, which will employ about 70 people when completed. The 175,000-square-foot facility will cater to elderly people with different needs ranging from independent and assisted living to dementia and Alzheimer's disease care, he said.

Rusnov, based in Cleveland, has built similar facilities in Ohio, New Jersey and other parts of Pennsylvania.

"I think it's an ideal fit for this area. It doesn't put a great deal of strain on the school system or the transportation system, and I'm really thrilled we have a golf course as a neighbor," Rusnov said as he looked over the 16th hole at Sylvan Heights, the city-owned golf course that borders Rusnov's property and the county nursing home.

About the facility: Plans call for an H-shaped building to be constructed. There will be 120 units of independent living, 30 units of assisted living and 30 units in the dementia and Alzheimer's care area, which will have private and semiprivate rooms.

The campus-style facility will be a nearly self-contained community with its own beauty shop, general store, restaurant, private dining areas and space for doctors offices, he said. In addition, there will be maid service, transportation and other amenities.

The units will range in cost from about $3,000 to $4,000 per month, depending on size and level of care, he said.

Rusnov said a second phase could include cottages or condominiums for those wanting more independence and a medical facility.

He noted that phase would require his company to partner with a local builder or developer for the cottages or condos and an area health system for the medical system.

It will take about 16 months to build the first facility, Rusnov said. He is working on financing, which will include obtaining tax free bonds from the state that offer lower interest rates than a traditional bank loan.

There also are plans to talk to utility companies about fronting the work and hardware needed and allowing Rusnov to pay for it over time, he said.

Manager: Once it's built, Sprenger Enterprises, a Lorain, Ohio-based retirement community management company will manage it. Sprenger already owns and operates several similar facilities in Ohio, Maryland and Virginia.

Scott Sprenger, vice president of operations, said his company prefers to work in facilities that offer several levels of living care.

"Senior citizens don't like to move from their homes and then go from independent living facilities to assisted to special care. This concept provides all of those services in one area," he said.

County Commissioner Roger DeCarbo said the development fits into county plans to renovate and add to Hillview Manor. DeCarbo has said that money from the sale of this land will pay for some of those projects.

Rusnov said his building will not offer skilled nursing care, which is what is done at Hillview Manor, but being nearby could be beneficial for both facilities.

"We want to offer the opportunity for people to age in place with a wide variety of options," he said.

cioffi@vindy.com




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