Loomis Communities in midst of big $12.4M rehab, expansion at its Amherst, South Hadley locations

Renovations in the lobby area at Loomis Village in South Hadley.

Renovations in the lobby area at Loomis Village in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Maureen O’Toole, the executive director of Loomis Village in South Hadley in the lobby with renovations in the background.

Maureen O’Toole, the executive director of Loomis Village in South Hadley in the lobby with renovations in the background. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Haley Gilpatrick works on the seating chart in the dinning area of Loomis Village. Renovations to the dinning area are happening in sections.

Haley Gilpatrick works on the seating chart in the dinning area of Loomis Village. Renovations to the dinning area are happening in sections. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

A wall divides the dining area in Loomis Village in South Hadley where renovations are happening in sections.

A wall divides the dining area in Loomis Village in South Hadley where renovations are happening in sections. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

An addition in the construction phase at Applewood Indepedent Living community in Amherst, which will include nine new apartments and a meeting space.

An addition in the construction phase at Applewood Indepedent Living community in Amherst, which will include nine new apartments and a meeting space. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Margaret Mantoni, chief executive officer, in front of the addition in the construction phase at the Applewood Independent Living community in Amherst, which will include 9 new apartments and a meeting space.

Margaret Mantoni, chief executive officer, in front of the addition in the construction phase at the Applewood Independent Living community in Amherst, which will include 9 new apartments and a meeting space. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

An addition in the construction phase at Applewood Independent Living community in Amherst, which will include nine new apartments and a meeting space.

An addition in the construction phase at Applewood Independent Living community in Amherst, which will include nine new apartments and a meeting space. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 11-22-2023 11:31 AM

SOUTH HADLEY/AMHERST — One of the region’s largest independent and assisted living communities is in the middle of a significant renovation at its Amherst and South Hadley locations that it says will provide more apartments, add community spaces and otherwise address some of the needs its residents have asked for in recent years.

The Loomis Communities is spending $12.4 million in capital improvements to its Applewood Independent Living community in Amherst and to its Loomis Village Independent and Assisted Living community in South Hadley.

Applewood, the larger of the two projects, will expand its occupancy with an additional nine apartments, each two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The $8.5 million project also adds an auditorium, or large community space for meetings and guest speakers. The project also will expand the facility’s library and construct a new courtyard garden.

“We have need for more spaces for the residents to gather to have meetings to have presentations, guest speakers coming into the community, things of that nature and we don’t currently have a large enough space for all the residents to gather together,” said Margaret Mantoni, CEO of Loomis Communities.

The new apartments will give Loomis Communities an opportunity to shrink its waiting list, which consists of over 150 people. Mantoni estimates each apartment is about 1,500 square feet. Three of the apartments will be situated atop the new auditorium and the other six will extend off a current wing of the community, adding two new apartments to each floor.

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The multipurpose auditorium, complete with a stage, lobby and projector, has the capacity to fit the entire community, a space the independent living facility lacked for over two decades. Mantoni said Applewood’s largest meeting room prior to the renovations could only hold about 70% of the community. The residents and staff have “been making it work” by using recreational spaces, such as the craft room, for meetings.

“We can go back to meeting notes of 2003 and there were discussions about needing new meeting spaces. We really focused in earnest about 2019 because we actually had plans drawn up as far back at 2006,” Mantoni said.

The 2,300-square-foot meeting room includes dividers that splits the space into two rooms for smaller gatherings, but the main purpose of the room is for communitywide events.

“It’s a space for residents to use however they see fit,” Mantoni said. “But our vision is that there will be a lecture, or some sort of entertainment in the big room, then break down into two smaller rooms where groups can gather.”

Loomis improvements

Loomis Village’s $4 million in renovations are designed to cater to the residents’ social and emotional wellness through additional gathering spaces for residents, including a billiards room, sunroom and casual event space.

“Each space was thoughtfully looked at to see what are people looking for and how can we provide a space for connection,” said Maureen O’Toole, executive director at Loomis Village.

Some of the work is being done to enhance interpersonal experiences. For example, the main dining hall ceiling, window treatments and chairs will be replaced with sound-absorbing materials to improve acoustics. The soundproof walls and ceiling will help residents with hearing impairments engage in conversations and dinner events.

“We heard residents say that they were looking for quality conversation during their dining and an intimate dining experience,” she said.

O’Toole said residents were a critical part of planning and designing new spaces; the brainstorms for each space involved at least 80 current residents and 20 other staff members and future residents. Loomis started a strategic planning survey in 2018 to gauge residents’ opinions on the layout of the community and heard an overwhelming demand for more social spaces.

“We asked what’s important to current residents, but also what’s important to future residents,” O’Toole said. “We wanted to give residents an opportunity to come together and sit together and laugh and talk and have something to eat.”

Community members specifically requested the addition of a billiards room, which will be named in honor of past resident of Loomis Village Elwyn Sanborn. After Sanborn died from Parkinson’s disease, O’Toole worked with his family to memorialize the cherished resident. Sanborn enjoyed playing pool as a child, so O’Toole and his family decided to name billiards room after Sanborn. A donation from his family will pay for the recreation space, which will replace a private dining room that is rarely used.

“The ability to honor the memory with this billiards room supports our initiative of wellness because it’s all about purpose and physical movement,” O’Toole said.

Three offices that O’Toole said are rarely used will transform into a “flex bar,” the nickname Mantoni uses for a multipurpose room complete with a bar counter, refrigerator and televisions. The flex bar is located next to the community’s auditorium and doubles as a lobby to the performance space. Though Loomis Village will not supply liquor for the bar, O’Toole said the space includes bar equipment for residents to host their own cocktail hours, coffee hours and hors d’oeuvre parties.

“People can come and sit and watch a game on a Sunday afternoon, or people can wait for a performance to start and sit in the hospitality space and have a drink,” O’Toole said.

The remainder of the capital improvement project refurbishes the lobby, library, Phylly’s Cafe and Loomis Village store. A fireplace and sunroom will be added to the lobby. Renovations for the cafe includes an outdoor balcony overlooking the Village green. These areas will also receive more social places for reading and chatting with friends.

Construction at both locations started over summer and Mantoni expects both projects to finish in spring 2024.

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.