When Lisa Pease’s 86-year-old mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the 12-year Edwards resident was faced with the brutal choices that she hopes her neighbors will be spared from making.
For Pease, that diagnosis meant moving her mother to a Denver care facility. Instead of spending her final days in a community she knew with family close by, Pease’s mother was uprooted and family members had to deal with the issues of travel and lodging in addition to the heartbreak of losing a loved one.
As a result, when Pease speaks of the need for the Castle Peak Senior Care Center, she speaks from experience.
“Right now we don’t have the types of health care and housing my mother needed,” said Pease. “People have to leave here to get the care they need. “
That fact has characterized aging in Eagle County for decades and is reflected in the fund-raising campaign for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community. That campaign is titled “Making our Community Whole” and it is a one-time capital project to build the 64-unit facility at a five-acre site located immediately north of Brush Creek Elementary School in the Eagle Ranch neighborhood. The 62,000 square foot project will include 22 skilled nursing beds, 20 assisted living apartments, 12 memory care beds and 10 transitional care units.
The Castle Peak Senior Care Community is a partnership between Eagle County and Augustana Care, a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization that owns and manages 23 senior care projects in Minnesota and Colorado. Pease is the Colorado director of development for Augustana Care.
Decades in the making
“This project has been decades in the making and it has been talked about for years,” said Pease.
Leafing through back copies of the Eagle Valley Enterprise reveals that local officials have been talking about senior care facilities since the 1970s. In the 1980s, the Golden Eagle Apartments were constructed for independent living seniors and the Golden Eagle Senior Center was part of that effort — providing a space for Tuesday/Thursday senior lunches in Eagle. A few years later the Seniors on Broadway project expanded the independent living options in town but to date, assisted living and skilled nursing needs have gone unmet.
There’s a strange dynamic in place when it comes to talking about senior care options. As Pease notes, people may recognize the need for such care options, but they seldom believe that their parents, or more particularly that they themselves, will need such services. Statistics however, say something different.
Pease cited a recent study that showed nearly 70 percent of people who turned 65 in 2007 will need long-term care at some point and about 20 percent will spend five or more years in long term care. That dynamic, in combination with Eagle County’s burgeoning senior population, is spurring development of the Castle Peak Senior Care Community.
Older adults are the fastest growing segment of Eagle County’s population. The population of adults over the age of 65 years is expected to increase 158 percent between 2010 and 2020 — from 3,005 to 7,775. Adults over the age of 70 years make up a large portion of that number — 2,374 — which represents a 221 percent increase in population.
“The fact that we are a community of 55,000-plus people means its time we have this level of care for people,” said Pease.
With numbers making the case for development of a senior care facility, the county started serious work toward addressing the need. In 2010, the county took the first step by forming a citizen’s advisory council. It quickly became apparent that the county was ill-suited to take on the operation of senior care and needed to find another entity to shepherd the project. That’s when they found Augustana Care.
When the county sent out a request for proposals for a senior care facility, Augustana Care was one of four finalists. A 115-year old non-profit organization, Augustana was interested in expanding from its native Minnesota market into Colorado. The company has since taken over operation of a care facility in Evergreen, and now owns and manages 23 projects in the two states.
“Augustana just stood out from the start for a variety of reasons,” said former Eagle County Commissioner and current Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney. “They were financially strong and they had over 100 years of experience in doing this.”
Additionally, during a site visit to various Augustana properties in Minnesota, a team from Eagle County liked what they saw. The projects were all unique to the communities where they are located. “ They really want the Castle Peak project to be tailored to meet this community,” said Stavney.
With the partnership sealed, the county proceeded with the purchase of the five-acre Eagle Ranch site and the two entities hired architects Nelson-Tremain from Minnesota and Pam Hopkins from Vail to develop the facility’s design. Additionally landscape architect Sherry Dorwood was brought in to address various outdoor features.
Pease noted that the county and Augustana have conducted an extensive community survey process to learn what people think is important in terms of design for a senior care facility. The biggest answer to come out of those efforts is that area residents value the outdoors. The resulting design features terraces and gardens, shaded patios and courtyards. There are paths linking the site to the Eagle Ranch commercial area and even a park area with a putting green.
“The site is great for a community like this,” said Pease. “We are close to the Eagle Ranch downtown with the theater and restaurants and adjacent to Brush Creek Elementary. We are planning to bring intergenerational programs involving the school.”
A design can be inspired and a site can be perfect, but if the numbers don’t work then a senior care facility won’t happen. A series of financial factors must come together for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community to proceed. The projected cost for the project is $23.4 million.
From the onset, Eagle County agreed to be a primary player. The county purchased the care center site for $1.6 million and has agreed to a $4.4 million loan. That is a subordinate debt, meaning the county will be paid after other, primary lenders have been paid. Augustana has also committed to a $1 million subordinate loan. That left a $16.4 million funding shortfall and the need for a primary lender — in this case the USDA Rural Development’s Community Facility Loan Program.
Last week the USDA approved a $12 million loan, which combines a 3.5 percent interest rate with a 40-year term, a key component in the Castle Peak Senior Care Community’s financial structure.
“That was the most significant moment in this project getting off the ground,” said Stavney. “It was the tipping point.”
In short, the federal loan makes the project self-sustaining.
“We sized Castle Peak’s long term debt so the project’s cash flows would be able to cover its debt payments,” said Augustana Care’s Chief Financial Officer Craig Kittelson. “The low interest rate and favorable term will go a long way in ensuring the success of the project,” he said.
Vail resident Merv Lapin was an early skeptic of the county’s senior care plan. “I knew the demand was there,” he said, “but I was concerned about the financing.”
He began to change his mind when 5013c non-profit Augustana joined the team. “They aren’t in it to make money,” said Lapin. But the addition of $12 million in long-term, low interest USDA funding was the turning point for Lapin.
A $4.4 million gap remains, so the focus has now shifted to a one-time capital fund-raising effort. Lapin is serving as the chairman of the Castle Peak Care Community’s Capital Campaign Committee.
Needed: $4.4 million
“It’s important that people realize we are not going to be coming at them again and again to raise money,” said Lapin. “This is a one-time effort.”
Pease noted that the fund-raising campaign is currently in its “quiet phase.” Right now capital campaign committee members are approaching individuals and businesses with funding requests and naming opportunities.
“We are at an exciting place right now. All the pieces are starting to fall into place,” said Pease.
Pease and Lapin noted the $4.4 million fund-raising goal is daunting, but they are also encouraged by their initial successes.
“As of last week, we had $1,127,000 in contributions and pledges and we really just started the campaign in July,” said Pease.
In the coming weeks, representatives from the fund-raising committee will visit the various municipalities in Eagle County to seek donations. The town of Eagle was first up on that list and the town board approved cash donations of $50,000 per year for three years, a $45,000 reduction in building permit fees and a $400,000 break in how water tap fees are calculated.
While the overall goal is $4.4 million, the magic number is $3.3 million. When the campaign has reached that level, Augustana will proceed with ground breaking.
“We have to be at 75 to 85 percent of our goal to break ground,” said Pease, “so we are currently at one-third of the way there.”
County and Augustana officials are hopeful ground-breaking for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community will happen by the summer of 2014. Along with the fund-raising effort, the project development team is working on final drawings and preparing for the town of Eagle review and approval processes.
There are still some unresolved financial questions for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community, including one of the most obvious — what will it cost to stay there?
Pease said that the final figures for what it will cost to receive care at the Castle Peak Senior Care Community have yet to be determined because those numbers are tied to the overall capital/debt expenses. She noted, however, that the facility’s financial model reflect 100 percent private payment for the assisted living beds and a combination of private pay, private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid payment for the skilled nursing, transitional care and memory care beds.
According to www.aplaceformom.com, the average cost for skilled nursing nationwide is between $5,430 and $6,150 per month. During a presentation by Linda Venturoni, one of the consultants for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community, the cost range for skill nursing at the Eagle site was cited at between $5,000 and $8,000 per month, depending upon the services provided.
As they examine the cost to stay at the facility, proponents of the Castle Peak Senior Care Community note that patients will be paying that money regardless of where they go, but when local residents move out of the area to find suitable care, there is an annual loss of $43 million to the local economy. And the dollars spent or saved don’t address the quality of life issue related to moving away from friends and family
“Having senior care is an aspect of the community here that’s been missing,” said Lapin. “In the whole circle of life, it’s something that you have to be prepared for.”
For additional information or to make a donation toward the project, visit www.castlepeak.org.