Spokane Journal of Business

Riverview taps active seniors

Retirement campus builds wood shop, fitness center for current, future tenants

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-—Staff photo by Treva Lind
Resident Bill Myrhang helped Riverview Retirement set up an expanded wood shop, an amenity that has proven to be popular.

Riverview Retirement Community, in Spokane, drew nearly 100 woodworking fans to watch an expert's recent how-to sessions hosted inside of its newly built 2,100-square-foot wood shop, which is designed mostly for its residents to use.

CEO Patrick O'Neill says such public outreach and Riverview's newer facilities including a 13,000-square-foot aquatics and fitness center opening May 15 serve as attractions for a more active age 50-plus population—both among its residents and possible future tenants.

Currently, Riverview has about 450 residents living in the 30-acre community at 1801 E. Upriver Drive, where it offers a mix of independent-living cottage homes and residences in multiunit buildings, as well as a nursing facility and assisted-living units.

These events and activity facilities also offer a great marketing tool, says Christie Hoffman, Riverview's director of community relations, although she admits she never realized beforehand how popular woodworking is among hobbyists who are near or at retirement age.

Hoffman says she fielded 60 telephone calls from people wanting to register for the March 1 demonstrations by Ashley Harwood on the day that The Spokesman-Review published an article previewing the event. Another 30 people called the next day about seeing the Charleston, N.C.-based woodworker known internationally for the art of wood turning, and Riverview had to close registration for the sessions it hosted in conjunction with Inland Northwest Woodturners.

"About 95 attended, and they had a couple of staggered sessions," Hoffman says. "People kept on calling, and we had people from the West Side and the Tri-Cities. I thought we'd get 30 people."

She adds, "The event was so popular, and it's great for marketing. I've had several follow-up tours. We even had a guy who donated equipment to the wood shop, and he's on a waiting list to come here."

She says O'Neill arranged for the temporary setup of two large flat-screen TVs during the woodworking workshops to allow more people to see close-ups of Harwood's demonstrations. A number of grandparents attended with their grandchildren, she adds.

O'Neill says Riverview built the wood shop that opened in February after being approached with the idea by two of its residents, Ron Gooley and Bill Myrhang, who are accomplished woodworkers. A year ago, they had moved in next door to each other in the independent-living Village West area, by coincidence, and later asked about replacing an old former 600-square-foot wood shop on campus.

"They helped us design the wood shop," O'Neill says, including lighting, air filtration, and dust collection systems, and the setup of equipment and work tables. "We started to think about what we could do to attract residents, but also what we could do to help them in fulfilling a need on campus to update our wood shop. They were the spark."

O'Neill says Riverview recently had bought a residential property for about $100,000 that was contiguous to its development and provided a lot for a new shop, after the removal of an older home there. Powell Custom Homes LLC, of Spokane, built the shop for a cost of $100,000, O'Neill says. He adds that all of the equipment and tools in the building were donated, mainly by Gooley and Myrhang.

Riverview also recently hired a part-time wood shop instructor, Tommy John, who separately runs a custom cabinetry and furniture shop and taught for seven years with Spokane Community College's Institute for Extended Learning. John will oversee wood shop safety orientations and facilitate a series of woodworking classes.

Hoffman says that independent-living Riverview residents who recently met for a monthly meeting showed widespread interest when John described upcoming classes, including one to build an Adirondack chair. She says residents will pay a minimal charge only to cover class material costs. Residents who use the wood shop for individual projects don't have to pay extra to use the facility.

Adds O'Neill, "There is a lot of interest from our female residents to build birdhouses and bowls," among other upcoming woodcraft sessions planned. "Our residents also will be teaching."

Both O'Neill and Hoffman say that Riverview, as a nonprofit, often opens up its facilities to groups such as the Audubon Society to hold meetings. Its community building also is a site for the community colleges' extended-learning classes, Hoffman adds.

She and O'Neill currently are gearing up to invite people to next month's opening of the new aquatics and fitness facility, which they also expect will have a broad appeal among residents. Hoffman says the residents can bring family members to the new facility including grandchildren, as long as they're supervised. Also, the 250 employees on campus can use it, she adds.

The campus includes three nonprofit affiliates: Riverview Terrace independent-living and assisted-living apartments, Riverview Village independent-living cottages, and Riverview Lutheran Care Center skilled-nursing and rehabilitation facility. The affiliates are supported by the congregations of 22 Lutheran churches in the Inland Northwest.

Robert B. Goebel General Contractor Inc., of Spokane, is completing the nearly $5 million aquatics and fitness center that has a four-lane lap pool, a 500-square-foot therapy pool, and a raised eight-person spa.

The lap pool has a resistance-training feature called a current-walking stream through two pool lap lanes, and another pool area has enough depth for water aerobics. The pools also have an ultraviolet cleaning system that uses 80 percent less chlorine. The therapy pool will be used mainly for physical therapy and rehabilitation, and all pools are accessible by stairs, a chairlift, and ramps.

Other areas of the fitness facility include a workout gym, a multipurpose room, seven private changing rooms with showers, and an indoor walking trail that circles the perimeter of the building. Spokane-based NAC|Architecture de-signed the facility.

O'Neill says a number of Riverview residents gave input into facility's features, and those residents tapped information from people involved in developing aquatic and fitness centers for the Salvation Army Coeur d'Alene Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center, and at Whitworth University, as examples.

"We're seeing that trend, that people who move in are a lot more active and have Spokane Club and YMCA memberships," O'Neill says. "People are looking for those amenities, and now they don't necessarily have to seek outside membership at fitness clubs."

Goebel also is the construction manager for major remodeling that's recently started elsewhere on campus, mainly for projects at the 153-unit Riverview Terrace independent- and assisted-living complex and the 75-unit Riverview Lutheran Care Center nursing facility.

Riverview is paying for most of the improvements, as well as refinancing some debt, through the sale of $15.7 million in tax-exempt bonds. However, it funded the wood shop construction from operating revenues, O'Neill says.

As part of planning for the wood shop, O'Neill says Riverview incorporated several safety features for residents.

For example, residents must first go through a safety orientation with the instructor, before they receive an access code to use the building. The instructor also oversees safety during classes, O'Neill says.

He adds that he expects widespread use of the facility by residents, for both individual projects and classes, and perhaps some public woodworking demonstrations if requested again.

Treva Lind
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