A historic old home-turned-facility has gotten a sensitive upgrade.

Executive Director Kristine Donnelly has searched but she hasn’t been able to find a flattering photo or portrait of philanthropist Hannah B.G. Shaw. Donnelly wants to hang one in the new wing of Shaw’s namesake home for the aged in Middleboro, MA.

Hopefully, Donnelly can locate one — because the benefactress of the 73-year-old operation would surely be pleased with its new 59,000-square-foot addition.

The $12.6 million project allows 52 residents to live in five new neighborhoods — 40 in skilled care and 12 in a new memory care unit. (An additional 9,500 square-foot renovation adds 15 short-term rehab beds this fall.)

The living quarters feature open kitchens, individual rooms with showers, living rooms with gas fireplaces, and dining rooms with outdoor balconies.

Short-term rehabilitation also has been added to further the mission set by Shaw, who willed that her old residence become a place where senior citizens can comfortably live. Shaw died in 1933 and the home opened in 1941, with a first renovation in 1950.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But it’s not always an easy one. Due to its latest growth from 60 to 107 residents, for example, local codes required the home to address its waste water system.

“The public sewer was more than a mile away,” says project architect David Dunlap Jr., of David H. Dunlap Associates Inc., of Hanover, MA. “The cost was astronomically high and the line would have had to go under bridges and over waterways.” 

Instead, a cutting-edge water treatment plant was built on site for an additional $1.89 million. The plant, a large component of which is underground, was combined with a garage to minimize the visual impact on the grounds.

Construction crews had difficulties with the utilities. Sequencing  the tasks that involved water or electricity lessened the impact on the residents. Extended disruptions were scheduled for third-shift work. Special care was taken to maintain residents’ routines and avoid changes that could concern or confuse them, or impact staff. Certain concessions were made: One day, a water issue caused paper plates to be used.

Sometimes, the difficulties of working with an old facility reared their ugly head during the project. For example, a faulty water valve hindered construction for a month. In contrast, an asbestos issue was handled with relative ease. The crew was able to whittle a $42,000 allowance down to approximately $5,000 by encapsulating the problem material, according to construction manager Ken Caputo.

The facility is set on an unfenced, 57-acre, rural site 35 miles south of Boston. The setting allows able residents to walk the grounds. Extra windows in the new facility allow additional visual supervision.

Residents moved into the new space over a five-day period. The change raised spirits in the home and made many tasks easier.

“Now, if someone wants a bowl of cereal at 3 a.m., it doesn’t take an act of Congress,” Donnelly says with a laugh.

Lessons Learned

Keep communicating and be patient with health departments.

Owners must convey functional expectations during the design/development phase. Figuring things out during construction is costly.

Proper sequencing of work helps efficiency and the residents.