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Canterbury Woods hires Rochester developer for Gates Circle project

Canterbury Woods officials are hoping to purchase their piece of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital site at Gates Circle and begin construction on their $38 million senior-living facility by the end of the year, as the waiting list for residential units already outpaces the capacity.

Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates, the parent of the successful continuing care community in Williamsville, has hired Lecesse Construction of Rochester to build and outfit the 85,000-square-foot facility, which will be the dominant feature on Gates Circle itself when the project is complete. The job should take about 20 months in all, said Rob Wallace, president and CEO of Episcopal Church Home.

Meanwhile, demand is already high. More than 130 people have signed up to pay the entrance fees that will enable them to become tenants of the 58-unit complex, which will be an extension of the Williamsville community known for handling all stages of aging under one umbrella. Officials received preliminary clearance from the state to take reservations, although final approval by health and insurance regulators is still pending.

“We’re very excited about that,” Wallace said. “We view it as an extension of our existing Canterbury Woods campus. The expansion just happens to be eight miles away.”

Construction can’t begin until Canterbury takes possession of the 1.4-acre property from TM Montante Development, which is still completing demolition and remediation of the site.

Montante took over the site from Kaleida Health with a goal of redeveloping it into a mixed-use community. The firm is currently taking apart the former power station and medical services building behind the main hospital tower, and expects to implode the tower itself this summer. Once that process is complete and the site is cleared and “building-ready,” Canterbury will close on it and begin its work by Jan. 1, Wallace said.

He acknowledged the potential difficulty of starting work in the middle of the winter, but “we can still do stuff even if the weather is poor.” He noted that there will already be a hole in the ground where the hospital sits on a basement floor, and Canterbury Woods will be using a portion of that for underground parking, so very little new digging will be needed.

Wallace also stressed the distinct nature of the Canterbury and Montante projects, which are separate even though they are occurring next to each other on what had been a shared property. “Our development is our development. We really have no ties to TM Montante at all whatsoever,” he said. “We’re very confident in what they’re going to be doing in that area and very excited about what their plans are.”

Episcopal Church Home opened Canterbury Woods in 1999 to provide seniors with a full range of options from independent living and assisted-living to skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. There are only 15 such communities statewide.

Canterbury’s city project calls for 53 independent-living units and five assisted-living units of varying sizes and prices. Unlike a stand-alone apartment building or assisted-living facility, Canterbury charges a one-time “entrance fee” or investment for access, which residents pay to cover the entire cost of their stay and care in the community over their lifetime. The fee varies depending on the size of the unit that the resident wants to occupy. Because it is considered both an insurance and a health care product, the Departments of Health and Financial Services must both approve all aspects of the community.

At the Gates Circle facility, the units range from an 800-square-foot, one bedroom apartment at the low end to the 2,200-square-foot penthouse units at the top of the building, with terraces and views toward Chapin Parkway and the city. The entrance fee ranges from $350,000 to $850,000 – somewhat higher than in Williamsville.

Separately, Canterbury Woods also unveiled the $1.4 million renovation of its Oxford Village nursing home unit in Williamsville, with new common areas, lounges with fireplaces, a more open and interactive food server, a new rehab area and community room, flat-screen televisions and electronic medical records in the rehab rooms, new flooring and new wall coverings. Officials now plan to start work in coming weeks on a $180,000 renovation of its Coventry Hall community room, expected to finish by late June.

“Central to our commitment to provide the highest levels of person-centered care for our residents is creating and maintaining the environment where our residents can thrive, physically and emotionally,” Wallace said.