Lodge at Otter Creek celebrates five years
MIDDLEBURY — Jim McWilliam wakes up every morning eager to start work at his job as executive director of The Lodge at Otter Creek, one of Middlebury’s two major retirement communities.
And McWilliam doesn’t have very far to travel to get to work. He lives at the Lodge, a development that just marked its fifth birthday and is ramping up occupancy as the economy continues to chug out of a lengthy recession.
“The Lodge is very strong,” McWilliam, a former Mount Abraham Union High School teacher and coach with almost three decades in the elder care industry, said on Wednesday.
“I’m pleased to say that we’re almost full.”
Based on 36.2 acres off Middle Road, the Lodge campus includes 100 units in a main, four-story building and 40 cottages. The development contains a combination of independent living and assisted living homes, as well as a wing dedicated to residents suffering from memory loss ailments like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
McWilliam reported the Lodge’s assisted living, residential care and memory loss units are full, and have waiting lists. He added the development’s independent living units (including cottages) are now 89-percent filled.
“We are in the fast lane,” McWilliam said. “Right now, we are very pleased with our numbers, and see nothing but (those numbers) going further north.”
He said The Lodge has come a long way since opening back in 2008. The Addison Independent reported back in December of that year that The Lodge was 50-percent filled. The facility’s opening coincided with the onset of one of the deepest recessions in the nation’s history. Some clients who wanted to buy into The Lodge were unable to do so, because of a sluggish real estate market that inhibited people from raising the necessary capital.
“People couldn’t come until they had sold their homes,” McWilliam explained.
The housing market has since improved to a point where seniors are able to sell their homes and move into settings where they can receive the extra support they want or need. Retirement communities like The Lodge and Eastview at Middlebury — which just marked its first anniversary — are able to provide such amenities as housecleaning, meals, personal care, medication management, medical attention and recreation opportunities.
“We have a great group of residents and a wonderful staff,” McWilliam said. “It’s such a vibrant community to be a part of.”
The Lodge at Otter Creek and The Lodge at Shelburne Bay are owned and operated by the Bullrock Corporation, founded and led by Gregg Beldock. Bullrock is planning to open another retirement community at Quarry Hill in South Burlington within the next few years, according to McWilliam.
Lodge officials have been noting an interesting trend in their client base: It’s getting younger. The median age for Lodge residents was 84. That’s dropped to an average of around 82.5, and McWilliam said he’s getting a lot of inquiries from people in their 70s “who are looking for amenities to make life a little easier.”
There are currently 126 full- and-part-time workers at The Lodge, making it one of the largest employers in Middlebury. Brandon is currently supplying the most workers to The Lodge’s roster, followed by Bristol and Middlebury, according to McWilliam.
Robert and Gail Neale moved into The Lodge last November from another retirement community in southern Vermont. It was a homecoming of sorts for the former Middlebury residents. They live in one of the cottages.
“There is so much going on,” Robert Neale said, noting the many on-site activities and field trips to such area locations as the Town Hall Theater, the Sheldon Museum and Crown Point State Historic Site.
“It’s a place that works well for us,” Gail Neale said. “We are lucky to be here.”
Meanwhile, EastView is marking a successful first birthday at its location off South Street, south of Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. The community is made up of a total of 99 homes — including 30 cottages and a main “inn” building that contains 31 independent living units, plus 20 for seniors requiring assistance and another 18 for residents suffering from memory loss ailments.
Connie Leach, director of marketing for EastView, said the community is approximately 80-percent occupied with a combined total of 106 residents. EastView’s residential care homes are completely full, she said.
“Our first anniversary is tracking strongly with where we expected to be at this time,” Leach said of EastView, which currently has 57 full- and part-time employees.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]ddisonindependent.com.