Design Decisions: Bring on the wave

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Leaders at the Oaks of Athens praise the new building for being elegant yet usable.
Leaders at the Oaks of Athens praise the new building for being elegant yet usable.

The Oaks of Athens in Georgia is not just a new building, but rather part of a grander vision. 

The new flagship of UHC-Pruitt Corporation, which is being rebranded as PruittHealth in early 2014, is designed to make an immediate impression and serve the expanded expectations of baby boomers who want to maintain their creature comforts.

 “People that walked through when we were preparing to open were quite surprised it was a nursing healthcare center,” says Nicole Frazier, vice president of community improvements and construction.

Visitors enter through a lobby with high ceilings designed to deliver the hospitality feel of a hotel. The next aim is to grab attention with an expansive rehabilitation area.

“One of the things at Pruitt that is a particular priority is the visibility of their therapy suite,” says Sharon Foley, director of interior design at Foley Design Associates Architects Inc. in Atlanta. “Those are increasingly being located at or near the main entry of the building so that there's a high visibility of fitness, therapy and activity.”

The health club-like exercise area features numerous workout machines. An underwater treadmill, a putting green and multi-textured walking paths also are available.

They are the first of numerous features and well-appointed spaces meant to pique interest.

“[PruittHealth] is very keen on providing unique destinations within their buildings,” says Bill Foley, president of Foley Design.

The property, which had its grand opening Aug. 26, has two movie theatres. The larger, first-floor theatre has 26 seats and room for wheelchairs. It adjoins the “University Club,” a cantina-style sports bar with two TVs. The decor features red, black and silver colors, and posters and artwork of the nearby University of Georgia.

For meals, instead of large dining rooms, The Oaks features four themed restaurants. The French bistro, country club, 1950s diner and an Irish pub each have daily menus of four to eight entrees. A chef cooks the meals in the main kitchen.

Other areas  include a library with computer stations, a spa that offers massages, pedicures and manicures, a large outdoor patio with a stone fireplace and a playground.

The $22 million property is the linchpin of the 43-acre campus, which is scheduled to include 45 independent living cottages, an independent living apartment building, an assisted living building and a guard house for the gated campus. Several cottage models are currently under construction. The whole campus should be completed in five years, according to one estimate.

The Oaks features 88 private rooms and a total bed capacity of 148. The facility had 100 residents through mid-October, according to administrator Pat Tanner, who has worked in healthcare for more than 40 years. She says she has never seen anything like the new building.

“It's very, very nice and very elegant, but it still has the usability,” Tanner says. “You don't feel like you're overwhelmed in it."

Lessons Learned

Appoint all possible areas to the fullest and make them destination points as much as possible.

Put high-energy, high-traffic features front and center to demonstrate the vitality of the facility.

Be creative and incorporate features such as a sports bar to serve the expectations of younger residents.


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