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Monday, June 9, 2008

For the Love of Lazarus

posted by on June 9 at 15:46 PM

Foss Village is where people go to die. But the non-profit nursing home, in operation since the 1920s, is ready to start a new life. Foss has plans to demolish its aging one- and two-story buildings and sprawling parking lot in Bitter Lake, and replace them with a modern nine-building campus and underground parking that fills almost a full block.



Mithun Architects

Talking with Foss CEO David Crouch about what will happen to the residents during construction was sort of depressing. “We will do a downsizing over time,” he says. “In nursing homes, people are pretty much at the end of their lives anyway.” He says that Foss will relocate those patients not lost to “attrition” to other facilities.

But from there, our conversation became uplifting. In a gravely cadence, Foss said the trend among elder care is toward “bringing services to where people live, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.” The new campus will support 179 apartments and 60 assisted living units. (It’s a block from this development.) He said, “Eventually I think you’re going to see nursing homes clean up their act and provide a nicer environment for folks.”

Although Foss has filed applications to build the site, the project hinges on receiving funding from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. Crouch says he’ll know whether construction can begin within 18 months. A design review meeting will be held tonight at 6:30 p.m. Ballard High School, 1418 Northwest 65th Street.

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You know what elderly people really want? Not "campuses". They want to be able to easily walk to social and commercial spaces -- a library, a store, a coffee house. They don't want to have to wander aimlessly around a complex of fourteen almost-identical buildings trying to remember which one is theirs.

Posted by Fnarf | June 9, 2008 4:00 PM

When I close my eyes and imagine death, I see buildings like this -- so, yeah, it makes sense these are a nursing home.

Fnarf is absolutely right. When the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture was working on a facility for Alzheimer's patients, all the buildings were round so people would not get lost!

I hope when I'm old I live in a busy little street in London.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | June 9, 2008 4:11 PM

You call it downsizing.

I call it filling graveyards.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 9, 2008 4:19 PM

Why does every new development have to be a massive block-long monstrosity? We need to figure out how to get 14 smaller developers to invest in different projects scattered over a larger area with some older buildings left intact.

Some day, not that long from now, this is going to be a single block of equally dated construction that no one wants to live in.

We need neighborhoods, not developments. Neighborhoods have a mix of buildings built for different purposes and adaptable for all kinds of uses, built at different times.

Posted by Cascadian | June 9, 2008 4:33 PM

In Rome, people lived in fairly tall block-long apartment buildings.

No reason we can't do the same.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 9, 2008 4:51 PM

@4: did you see that this was a NURSING HOME/HOSPICE? you don't go there to LIVE. your mixed-use planning idealism is admirable, but not very practical when it comes to caring for the elderly.

given where Foss is, this will enhance the neighborhood immensely for the next 50 years.

Posted by max solomon | June 9, 2008 5:00 PM

#4 This is not a massive block long building. It's broken up into smaller buildings allowing more light to come into individual apartments. Compared to what other choices seniors have in north Seattle, this is big progress.

Posted by Polka Party | June 9, 2008 5:27 PM

Max, people in nursing homes do not all lie in bed all day and night. They are frequently mobile. And giving them something to do with their time besides staring at TV or watching clowns twist balloons can increase both the quality and the quantity of their lives.

Posted by Fnarf | June 9, 2008 5:30 PM

actually, it's not a block long development, there is an attempt to break up the massing w/ light courts.

however, the project itself looks rather awful.

i'm especially looking forward to when people start building smaller ederly homes that are actual homes worth living in and not some hole in the wall that deprives the elderly of all their senses just so you can stick your grandmother in one to save a few bucks.

Posted by holz | June 9, 2008 10:16 PM

You *DO* realize that you should not try to insert your opinion [ie: yourself] into *EVERY* "news" story you write, right?

For the love of god... I am just waiting for another pot article to come out.... but I grant that you will learn from your mistakes.

I am an optimist.

Posted by frustratedreader | June 9, 2008 11:00 PM

Is this project going to be affordable to Mwedicare folk?

Posted by Richard | June 10, 2008 10:08 AM

Holy burying-the-lede, Dominicman!

Nursing homes are not where people go to die, they are where people go to live when they are disabled. (Incidentally, many more people could be living in their own homes if the state of Washington followed their own regulations for the COPES program. They could provide assistance up to 90% of the cost of nursing home placement, but they actually only will provide assistance up to 40% of the cost. This means people are forced into nursing homes, at a cost of a thousand a month more, at least, for the taxpayer to pay, but at least the bureaucrats keep their power over the disabled.)

But what the story says is that Foss wants to go out of the nursing home business. In a sense this is understandable, because it's hard to make money or break even providing care. Still, the quoted slap in the face to other nursing homes by David Crouch sounds pretty funny coming from a guy who intends to just admit defeat and stop providing care at all.

What happened is that 20 years ago more of the people in nursing homes were not that disabled. Care requirements for many residents were modest. Since then, the bar has been raised- now you need to be significantly disabled to qualify for admission. The cost and complexity of providing care has also risen.

Foss wants to get back to what they were doing, and that's maybe not such a bad thing. But it's not automatically a good thing either.

Posted by serial catowner | June 10, 2008 12:07 PM

OTOH, from the standpoint of the employee...I always feel like I'm dying a little when I walk up to one of these institutional facades. And the elevation for the Foss project has "kill me now" written all over it.

At least once a year I go and look at the friezes on the old Doctors Hospital (now part of Virginia Mason) as a sort of antidote to the deadly facelessness of second-rate institutions.

Posted by serial catowner | June 10, 2008 12:14 PM

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