Proposed nursing home to have cottage feel

Justin Moffett
Justin Moffett

Growing up, Andrew Greenwood remembers visiting his 110-year-old great-grandmother in her nursing facility. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

“Me and my sister, we would count down, ‘Three, Two, One,” and hold our breath,” he said. “You didn’t want to smell the air in here.”

Now he hopes to replace that sterile nursing home odor with the smell of fresh baked goods and meals made with love.

Greenwood has joined Justin Moffett’s Old Town Design Group for a proposed nursing facility on East 126th Street, Green House Cottages, that aims to have a comfortable home feel.

Several years ago, Moffett was looking into nursing homes for his grandmother and was disappointed in what he saw in Carmel.

“Nothing felt like a home,” he said.

That’s when he stumbled upon The Green House Project, a national nonprofit that creates alternative living environments to traditional nursing home care facilities. There are more than 150 of these facilities nationwide, but none in Carmel. Moffett saw an opportunity.

Moffett had already purchased land east of Carmel United Methodist Church and he was envisioning building single-family homes, similar to what he had built in other parts of the city. But then he thought that a residential setting might be the perfect location for this different approach to nursing homes, which are often tucked away in shopping centers because neighbors think they’ll decrease property values.

He loved the location, but starting a nursing home was foreign to the home developer.

“I knew I could build it but I had no idea how to operate it,” he said.

That led Moffett wo meeting with Greenwood about a partnership.

After working a decade in the elder-care industry, Greenwood has visited hundreds of nursing homes but that memory of his great-grandmother always stuck with him. So Moffett’s idea to start a Green House Project development really appealed to him.

The proposed project features six cottage homes, approximately 8,000 square feet each, and one administrative building on 4.6 acres. Each home would feature up to 12 private rooms, of approximately 300 square feet each, with a central open kitchen and communal dining area.

Each building staff would cook its own meals in smaller batches and residents would be able to participate. Workers eat the exact same food and dine with the residents.

Residents are encouraged to bring any of their own furniture to their private rooms and the design and look is meant to stray away from that of a sterile hospital, feel.

Greenwood said the comfortable atmosphere has been statistically shown to have an impact on depression, mental health and sometimes physical health of the residents, which, in turn, can make an impact on costs and efficiency.

The project was presented to Carmel City Council without objections from the public. although many people did raise some concerns to the Carmel Plan Commission.

Neighbors were worried about parking, traffic congestion along 126th Street, drainage problems and noise from dumpsters.

Moffett said he knows there are traffic problems along 126th Street but his traffic study showed that his development wouldn’t make much of an impact because most residents won’t be driving.

“I know 126th Street will need to be addressed by the City of Carmel,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s our issue to address.”

Moffett said he knows storm-water drainage is a concern in Carmel but the reality is that when a new developer comes into an area it is an opportunity to alleviate some of the existing problems.

“The truth is that we have to improve the situation or we can’t build,” he said. “If anything, there will be a measurable positive impact from our development plan.”

As for parking, Greenwood said at least 40 residents –of the 72 possible – would need to have one or more visitors before there ever would be a parking concern. And he said trash collection wouldn’t be noisy or at late hours because that would disrupt his nursing home residents and that wouldn’t be good business.

The proposed planned unit development has been sent to the City Council’s Land Use, Annexation and Economic Development Committee.