Celebrating car culture

A few years ago, the United Auto Workers eyed the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Township, MI, north of Detroit, as the potential site for a community center. Given the property’s history and the rich car culture of the region, it seemed like a place to park it.

But that project never materialized and in 2012, Ciena Healthcare seized the opportunity to put its 72,000-square-foot skilled nursing and short-term rehab center in the place where automotive performance was tested from 1927 to 1956.

Opened in 2015, Regency at Shelby Township is a 116-bed community that offers “a comfortable setting for skilled nursing residents as well as a healing environment for post-surgical rehabilitation patients,” says Ciena President Mohammad Qazi.

Built on six acres at a cost of roughly $16 million, Regency at Shelby Township includes 60 private and 28 semi-private suites with individual showers, 24-hour room service, spa, full-service salon with massage room and common areas throughout. 

“Understanding that one’s recovery encompasses the entire body, all rooms in the center offer scenic views for resident relaxation and rejuvenation,” Qazi says. 

The community sits on one of the sandpits adjacent to the historic Packard Proving Grounds, a 2.5-mile high-speed concrete oval track that is a Michigan historical landmark. In the 1920s, the proving grounds were used to test Packard automobiles and aircraft engines. In 1929, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh visited to test a Packard-powered airplane. During World War II, Chrysler leased the location to test tanks and other armored vehicles.

The history of the Packard Proving Grounds is well represented at The Regency, with replicas on display throughout the halls of the center and at The Packard Lounge in the main dining room. 

The community has a hub-and-spoke layout, which architect Roy Baker says “looks like a butterfly from the sky.” The primary objective of the design, he says, is to provide a functional “wayfinding” environment for residents while also offering aesthetic touches like airy rooms with windows galore. Resident wings branch out from the “main street of the community,” Baker notes.

The rehab area comprises about 3,000 square feet and is staffed for comprehensive therapy and nursing care under the direction of a board-certified physician. Services include 24-hour nursing care, physical and occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, IV therapy and wound care and pain management. 

Qazi marvels that the center, planned and designed with extensive input from his operational staff, “is a beautiful building,” constructed of high-end brick and stone.

“We do not cut corners,” he proudly states, “(because) saving money in the short term can be costly in the long run.”