2016-09-23 / Front Page

Retirement resort touted ‘savior’

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Shovels have been turning for months on a luxury retirement resort off Running Hill Road in South Portland, but dignitaries gathered for an official groundbreaking ceremony last week, with one, Mayor Tom Blake suggesting the $34 million project could be a sort of savior for the city’s economic woes and burgeoning housing crisis.

The new Sable Lodge Retirement Community, being built on a 10-acre site at 74 Running Hill Road, between Interstate 95 and the Fairchild Semiconductor office building, will feature 128 apartments that range from studios to three-bedroom units, with room for roughly 150 residents. It’s a first foray into New England for Nebraska-based Resort Lifestyle Communities, which has 22 locations in 15 states.

“I really see the benefit as two things,” Blake said. “Across America, many malls are having problems. Every year, my wife and I go to the Phoenix area for two weeks. In that area they have a lot of malls – 100 plus. And they were struggling. But about 10 years ago, the planners in the area started locating housing around the malls, specifically, senior housing.

“So, today, if you go to Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale, you will see new housing projects around malls,” Blake said. “It has been the savior for malls. It has worked. People don’t have to use transportation as much, they can walk (and) get exercise. So, it’s a smart idea to locate your consumers around your product. It’s a very smart idea.

“In South Portland and the greater Portland area this is great, because even though this (complex) is for people aged 55 and up – of which there are a lot of us – what this really does is it has a tremendous, positive ripple effect to create housing for the younger generations,” Blake continued. “People who work for the service providers – those who work in hotels, motels, restaurants and transportation – they can’t afford great places, and there are few available anyway. But by senior citizens now having their own places, it frees up the housing. As seniors relocated to places like this, it frees up properties for young people to purchase their first homes, which will help cement their roots and keep them in the greater Portland area. So, I see this as a tremendous plus.”

“This community has a tremendous need for a model like ours and that was evident through the research done my our development team,” said resort Spokesman Kelly Jo Hinrichs, noting the company has been opening, on average, one new location per year since its founding in 2001. South Portland, she said, has been particularly welcoming.

“This community just opened its arms and said, ‘be our neighbor,’” she said. “We’re thrilled. We could not have had a warmer welcome. It’s just fantastic and it’s clear that the seniors in the area and in South Portland want to stay in South Portland.”

Apartments in the complex will be limited to residents aged 55 and older. Besides a host of social programs, the site will offer valet parking, shuttle services and two restaurants – for casual and fine dining – along with a pharmacy, bank, salon, gift shop, health club,and a 150- seat movie theater that will also feature a performance stage and dance floor.

“The best part about our resort lifestyle model is that we’re a community within the community,” Hinrichs said.

Rents, inclusive of all meals and utilities, will range up to $4,600 per month, depending on the number of bedrooms and residents per unit.

On-site staff will provide assistance through the 24/7 Emergency Call System, although the Sable Lodge will not have a medical staff of its own. Instead, Hinrichs said, the complex has partnered with Interim Healthcare.

“With a home health agency on site for those who need it, the idea is that our community members will be able to age in place and maintain an independent lifestyle as long as they possibly can,” Hinrichs said.

Residents also will be able to choose their own in-home health care providers.

Sable Lodge will have a buy-in fee but does expect to have a waiting list. It had already begun taking $500 deposits for charter residents, refundable if the depositor ends up not taking a unit. Hinrichs said the first apartments should be ready for tours within six months, while construction is expected to be complete by this time next year.

The facility also expects to hire up to 15 full-time and 30 part-time employees,

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