By GRETCHEN KEISER,Staff Writer | Published December 15, 2005
St. George Village has officially opened as a continuing care retirement community adjacent to St. Peter Chanel Church and the campus of Blessed Trinity High School and Queen of Angels Elementary School.
Charter residents have been moving into the new facility on a staggered schedule since early November. The ribbon-cutting was held Nov. 1.
St. George Village is owned by Catholic Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Inc., and is being managed by Wesley Woods, Inc. While it was built under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, it is open to both Catholics and the general public and has a religiously diverse group of charter residents.
An estimated $50 million project, St. George Village has 153 one- and two-bedroom independent living units, including 10 reserved for retired priests of the archdiocese. The complex also has 25 assisted living units, a skilled nursing care area with 15 private rooms and the capacity to add 15 more, and 14 residences in a memory-support section.
There is already a waiting list for the independent living residences, which were fully reserved at opening.
Depending on the size of their residence and whether a single person or a married couple will reside there, residents pay a one-time entrance fee ranging from $182,000 to $373,900 and a monthly maintenance fee that varies from $1,990 to more than $4,000. The entrance fee is 90 percent refundable to the residents, if they choose to move out, or to their estate upon their death once the unit is reoccupied.
The amenities include a daily meal credit that can be used in the main fine dining room or the café, weekly housekeeping and linen service, utilities, apartment maintenance, security and 24-hour call system, scheduled transportation, and use of the wellness center and community center and their programs. In addition, residents know that, if necessary as they age, they are assured priority access to the assisted living and skilled nursing care areas of St. George Village so they and their families know that they can live there for the rest of their lives.
One- and two-bedroom units and two-bedroom units with an extra den were built in the three-story north and south towers of St. George Village. In addition, a 20,500-square-foot community center and a 10,500-square-foot wellness center are part of the facility. The wellness center includes an indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, a fitness room, an aerobics room, locker, shower and changing rooms, and a spa.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory is the chairman of the board of directors of St. George Village. George Aulbach is the vice chairman of the board and was project development manager. Other board members are vicars general Father Joseph Corbett and Msgr. Paul Reynolds, and Gary Meader, chief financial officer of the archdiocese. St. George Village was approved by the Archdiocesan Finance Council and the building process was overseen by Catholic Construction Services, Inc.
The project was funded by the sale of $48.5 million in tax-exempt bonds through the Fulton County Development Authority. The bonds were guaranteed by the archdiocese but will be paid from funds generated by deposits placed by St. George Village residents and by the cash flow of the facility, Meader said.
In addition, a small chapel on the first floor of St. George Village was paid for by the archdiocese because this exclusively religious area could not be funded through tax-exempt bonds. Aulbach appealed to families moving in to consider making a donation or a memorial gift to enhance the chapel with stained glass, Stations of the Cross, statues and other liturgical furnishings.
At the ribbon-cutting Judy Hinman, executive director of St. George Village, thanked the inaugural residents for demonstrating “faith and trust” “by making commitments to St. George Village.”
“The staff will not let you down,” she said.
Aulbach, who was given a rendering of St. George Village as a gift from the archdiocese, residents and staff, said, “Today is a great day for me.”
“Six years ago I told my dream to Archbishop (John F.) Donoghue about this. Today my dream is being fulfilled,” said Aulbach, the retired president and chief executive officer of Laing Properties, who volunteered his services as project manager and who has served on many earlier archdiocesan projects including the planning for five new Catholic schools. He said he expects to be a resident of St. George Village himself one day.
Aulbach thanked the architects, contractor, marketing company, Catholic Construction Services, bond underwriters, and others. “It takes quite a team to put a program like this together … I want to thank them all for a job well done.”
Archbishop Gregory, who spoke after the invocation given by Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, said “fewer and fewer Americans are actually spending their whole lives in the home of their childhood.”
“We are a very mobile society,” he said, and “the Atlanta metropolitan area has been a major beneficiary of this wanderlust. Many of the people who now call Atlanta home had many other homes.”
In St. George Village the archdiocese wanted to create a home, the archbishop said.
“We wanted it to be a home—a place where people can reside close to family … near their relatives … We hope it is a place where those who are grandparents and great-grandparents can be near those youngsters who give much hope and enthusiasm to their lives.”
He added that St. George Village will be home to people “from many different religious traditions.” Because “so many people who will reside here will be grandparents,” the chapel, which will be dedicated Dec. 21 by Archbishop Donoghue, will be dedicated to St. Joachim and St. Anne, who are “the parents of the Blessed Mother and, more importantly, the grandparents of Jesus,” Archbishop Gregory said.
He added, “While the grandchild of Joachim and Anne was divine, grandparents believe theirs are too.”
Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, who grew up in the city and “used to ride ponies” on the farm that was once on the land, praised St. George Village as “a great asset to Roswell.”
“It is not only a great use for this piece of property, it is a model for similar projects we are looking at,” Wood said.
A new zoning district was created specifically for St. George Village.
Acknowledging the ecumenical quality of the community, the Benediction was given by Rev. Dr. Robert Bowling of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. While Archbishop Donoghue is expected to live at St. George Village, along with retired priests including Father Ed Danneker, Father Richard Morrow and Father Ed O’Connor, Rev. Bowling said a retired Methodist minister, the Rev. Dr. Bill Floyd, is also going to be a resident. Also Wesley Woods Senior Living, Inc., is a ministry of the United Methodist Church.
The ground floor of the buildings is red brick while the second and third stories are beige. Coming in through the main entrance, several gracious sitting areas adjoin an inviting two-sided fireplace. In adjacent areas and rooms, there is a library, a card room equipped with card tables and chairs, and an inner open-air landscaped courtyard with benches, tables and chairs.
The chapel at the end of the first floor has five pews on each side of a center aisle.
Looking in at the chapel was Trudy Melun, 91, who was to move into St. George Village Dec. 12. A resident of Alexandria, Va., for 30 years, she relocated to Georgia in 1999 to be near her daughter, Mikey Mills, a member of St. Ann Church, Marietta.
While the mobile and intelligent senior said she has been in a good retirement facility in the metro area until now, she looks forward to being in a complex in walking distance of a Catholic church.
Currently “I can’t get to church (on foot) … That’s one of the things that drew me here,” she said.
She has been serving as a eucharistic minister at her residence where a priest comes once a week to celebrate Mass, but her daughter said most of her life she went to daily Mass. At St. George Village she will not only have access to the chapel on the same floor as her residence but can also walk to St. Peter Chanel Church with its full schedule of Masses, the sacraments and a perpetual adoration chapel.
Mills said her mother “was one of the original charter members” in St. George Village. “I’m delighted,” she said.
Incoming resident Evelyn Wethern, 83, of Dunwoody said, “I’ve been excited ever since they started” St. George Village.
A widow with seven children, 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, who has been living in her own home for 20 years, she said, “I’m tired of taking care of it now.” Her son, Tom, who was with her, and his family are members of St. Peter Chanel Church and his son, a junior at Blessed Trinity High School, next to the church, will be working part-time at St. George Village and have more opportunities to see his grandmother.
Admiring the pool with its easy walk-in ramp, as an alternative to steps, and the adjacent whirlpool, her son noted that his mother already exercises in a pool as part of a Saint Joseph’s Hospital rehabilitation program for the arthritis in her knees. The sparkling windows letting in the sun at St. George Village make the workout look appealing.
“I love the windows. It is just beautiful,” she said. “I think I’ll have to get a new suit.”
A daily Mass-goer, she also is pleased to be near St. Peter Chanel. “I love being next to the church … I like that you have perpetual adoration at St. Peter Chanel.”
Married to a military man, she served in World War II and moved about 30 times in her life, she said.
“This will be my final home on earth, but it won’t be my last home because I’ve got one up there,” she said, pointing heavenward. About her last home on earth, she said, “This is nice.”
Blessed Trinity High School principal Frank Moore said the school community is excited about the opportunity to come to know its new neighbors and has been bringing a “housewarming gift bag” to each new resident as they move in. Included is a school mug, school pen and school magnet, a Blessed Trinity stuffed bear and a Trinitarian crucifix. There is also a letter from Moore inviting St. George Village residents to all high school events and including a free pass for two to all athletic and fine arts events at Blessed Trinity.
“We are really excited about this. We are going to keep them informed of all the major events over here and let them in free,” Moore said.
Five Blessed Trinity students have been hired to work on the evening wait staff in the dining room, he said.
Landscaping on the grounds includes a small lake, two lake overlooks, a gazebo, a waterfall and a small putting green. The main dining room has the elegance indoors of a classic restaurant with tall windows and the additional ambience of an outdoor patio area with umbrella tables and chairs overlooking landscaped walks and the lake. The facility also offers a bar and lounge, a convenience store, an arts and crafts room, an auditorium and a beauty salon and barbershop.
All of the independent living residences have been reserved and a waiting list has been started, according to Stacy Gass, assistant executive director. An estimated 200 to 210 people will live there.
In November and December the staff prioritized the moves of charter members who had already sold their homes and had immediate time pressure to move in.
“We had experienced a lot of people who were so excited to move into St. George’s that they had put their homes on the market and sold them and had closing dates,” Gass said. “Now we’re over that crunch period of time. Now we’re handling three move-ins a day until Jan. 11 and then two move-ins a day.”
The two-story assisted living area, which is called Wellington Court, will be open to St. George residents who need that level of care, but after that is evaluated in January, a small number of people will be sought to move in directly to Wellington Court, Gass said.
“We are in the process of evaluating our life care residents to see how many units will be available to the general public. It is really a very small opportunity for people to move into assisted living. There will be some very fortunate people who will be able to move in at this level,” she said.
Those who move directly into Wellington Court will be able to later move, if necessary, to the skilled nursing care area of St. George Village.
Architects for the project were Rink, Reynolds, Diamond, Fisher, Wilson of Jacksonville, Fla., and the contractor was Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, of Kennesaw.
For information call (770) 645-2340 or visit www.stgeorgevillage.com.