Children in Kettering, OH, still play baseball on the grounds of Oak Creek Terrace, reminiscent of the days when the skilled nursing community was an elementary school. In fact, because the renovated changes to the building have been so subtle, it fits squarely into the neighborhood fabric perfectly, project supervisors say.

The former Oak Creek Elementary School closed to students in the mid-1980s and has been owned by the Caring Place Healthcare Group for three decades. A more recent makeover has given the building a new personality while retaining the original integrity of the school, says Barry Kohn, the president of Caring Place.

“Oak Creek Elementary School was only 14 or 15 years old at the time we bought it,” Kohn says. “The school district closed it when they determined a population shift caused the school to no longer be needed. We bought at an auction, thinking we could turn it into a useful community for seniors.”

Initially started as an independent living center, Kohn says over the years it made more sense to encompass skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care. The majority of the center’s 69-bed capacity is dedicated to skilled nursing, with assisted living and memory care residents comprising the rest of the population.

The recent yearlong $3 million renovation project completed in May literally involved the building from top to bottom, Kohn says.

“Over the years we built a 65,000-square-foot addition and conducted a couple renovations, but last year it was apparent that the building needed a roof and floor redo,” he says. 

Oak Creek Entrance

Moreover, Kohn saw the project as an opportunity to convert some former classrooms into fully private SNF rooms.

“We replaced everything from the roof to the floor, including HVAC systems, plumbing, lighting and cabinetry,” he says. “Everything is brand new now.”

The corridors have remained virtually unchanged since the days of the old school, but during the latest renovation, a new main plumbing line was installed underneath the hallway, with piping diverted into the old classrooms.

Donald R. Hinkel, CEO of Dryden Builders, was involved in the construction of the original school and has done numerous projects for Caring Place over the years, including the Oak Creek renovation. One of the aesthetic elements he likes is that the senior care community still retains the “glazed block look” of the old school.

“This community is a single story and looks nothing like the new high rises that are going up,” he says. “It fits the fabric of the neighborhood perfectly.”

Oak Creek Lounge

One of the most interesting conversions from school-to-care center, Hinkel says, is how the former school gymnasium now serves as a dining and lounge area.

“We have repurposed everything in the entire facility, which I am happy to see because the school was in pretty good shape at the time it closed in 1983,” he says proudly. “The playground has been left intact and is part of a 10-acre city park, with a baseball diamond and playground equipment. Residents can watch children play in the schoolyard as they did so many years ago.”