Development is growing up all around Brandon Wilde, and the Evans retirement community, which houses 450 senior citizens is keeping up the pace by planning a little growth of its own.
The community on Owens Road at Washington Road began in the mid-1980s with University Health Care System Inc. and became a joint venture between University and St. Joseph Hospital in 1987, said Rosie Messer, Brandon Wilde's president. University recently bought out St. Joseph's 50 percent interest, making University the sole owner of Brandon Wilde, which recently purchased 42 acres around the existing 22-acre property.
"It's been a long, good relationship," Messer said. "But it was a good move for University. University just saw such value in us with our strong presence in Columbia County and their growing strong presence in Columbia County. They just saw it as a good match."
Messer said the additional 42 acres is contiguous to the campus. It stretches from the front and back side of Brandon Wilde to the backside of University's property on Belair Road, which houses office buildings, a Prompt Care and Westwood nursing home.
"We don't have any specific plans at this moment," Messer said. "It's just a defensive move so we can protect our rear side and give us an opportunity to do an in-depth strategic plan looking at the highest and best possible use of that land."
Messer said the community hired the Martinez firm Davidson Retirement Properties, a statewide developer of retirement communities, to come up with the strategic plan for the future of the new property. Having enough room for green space such as walking trails and landscaping was an important part of developing the first 22 acres and will be a high priority in developing the new 42 acres, Messer said.
Renovations are currently updating the community's dining area. No plans have been set for new development, but Messer said an expansion of the site's current 9,000-square-foot wellness facility is definitely an option considering most of the community's residents use the wellness facility on a regular basis.
"We're just looking at all of our options and what would be the best for us and the best for University Hospital," Messer said.
Messer said there is some concern about the impact that the Kohl's and Target shopping center across Washington Road will increase traffic congestion in front of the community.
"We're a little bit worried about traffic," Messer said. "I think we are going to need to be vigilant with our security because I think that whole area is going to be more visible."
Despite traffic concerns, Messer said residents are excited about the fall opening of the center.
"The residents are excited about the opportunities for quality shopping nearby. In fact they wish we'd put a bridge over Washington Road.''
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