I think the revitalization process so far has been a resounding success. Kudos to all of those who planned and implemented it. Still, as I noted in a previous blog post about our charrettes, there are some major issues that the revitalization process has not yet begun to address. It is worth mentioning them now to make sure we don’t lose sight of them as the revitalization process progresses.
Three questions in particular are on my mind. I won’t attempt to explore the answers in this post, nor will I express my opinions about them. What I hope to do, however, is get the discussion started.
1. What should our resident population be like? How many of us should there be, and what should the characteristics of our population be? We know, from Ed Plasha’s most recent budget presentation, that our independent-living population is 325. That’s the highest it has ever been. The number of independent-living units is 254. That’s six short of its historical maximum.
In our revitalization charrettes, we were asked to contemplate adding up to 30 units. That would give us 24 units more than we have ever had. At our current occupancy rate, it would mean 35-40 additional residents.
How should we think about our desired population? Should it be the maximum that our healthcare and dining facilities can handle? Should resident diversity be considered? Is there a target size beyond which our sense of community gets diluted?
What mix of unit types should we have? Should our objective be to match the local competition from other retirement communities? Which of the following should we prioritize: The highest possible occupancy percentage? Economic diversity? Units that provide easy access to cars? Units that provide easy access to the Center? Units that have the least impact the natural environment? Units that are highly efficient? Some of these objectives may conflict with the others. How will that be resolved?
The sizes of units we were asked to place in the charrette exercise were larger than most existing cottages. If that was the intent, it would also suggest a continuation of the trend toward a greater percentage of larger units.
2. How will the financial trade-offs of revitalization be handled? In the charrette sessions, we were invited to brainstorm without taking cost into account. That was appropriate, and it produced many ideas that wouldn’t have been considered otherwise. As we move forward, though, financial considerations will play a role.
I have no doubt that some ideas will ultimately be discarded because they are “too expensive”. How will those choices be made? Is the lowest-cost option always best, or are there cases where factors such as preserving our feeling of community or our relationship to our environment justify additional cost?
3. What happens next to our older cottages? Some of our cottages are nearing the end of their useful life. The limitations of their construction, undertaken under budget constraints almost 50 years ago, are becoming painfully obvious. Some have had structural damage from storm-water flooding. Some have serious heat-leakage issues. There are other structural and maintenance problems as well.
There are design issues too. For example, some residents find that Kendal’s expectations for the use of “3-season” rooms just don’t align with the realities of their Kendal life. Natural light is sorely lacking in some units. Facilities for electric scooters were not taken into account.
There will come a time—probably within the next few years—when some cottages will have to be torn down and completely replaced. (Is that what the revitalization phrase “replacement units” is intended to convey?) How will that replacement process be managed? If there is one cottage in need of replacement when the current occupants move out, and it is in a row of four, what is the plan for the residents other three cottages? Perhaps the process will be similar to that at Crosslands, where the Wollman Building was gradually emptied. If so, can that be made explicit so residents know what to expect?
All three of these questions deserve a robust public discussion in the context of what “revitalization” should mean for us and for future residents. In my opinion, the sooner this discussion gets started, the better. The answers will help define the future of Kendal for decades to come. What can be more important than that?
If you have opinions on one or more of these questions (and I know some of you do), please make use of the comment facility below to express them. Let’s get the discussion going.