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Growing Pains

Since the ground-breaking ceremony in 1976, Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor has experienced tremendous support from the Arkansas City community as well as the greater Cowley County community. The building of the retirement complex, including the healthcare center, filled a void within the community.

During the first eight years after the original opening, the leadership team at the local level and at the parent company Presbyterian Manors Inc., were very in tune to the desires of the residents and local community members.

An expansion campaign was started in 1984 to raise additional capital funding. That expansion campaign included several areas: the west wing of healthcare and some additional improvements to the existing apartment complex, such as a renovation on the third floor for an additional dining room. However, the purchase of the land for the duplex construction was a focus for the capital campaign committee.

Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor leaders believed that the building of duplex units was the answer for retired couples who wanted independent living units separate and apart from the apartments situated in the high-rise and larger living spaces. Even though there were other apartment units in Arkansas City marketing to seniors, Presbyterian Manor’s leaders believed that they were unique and appealing to seniors because of the continuum of care and sense of security created.

One of the benefits for residents of Presbyterian Manor is that no matter what level they currently reside in, they receive first preference in placement to another level of care when they need that higher level of care. Many residents have taken advantage of this benefit over the years and have been grateful in knowing they have always had a place to go when more care was needed.

In the original layout of the campus shared with the public in 1974, several duplexes and six-plexes were included on the north end of the property. However, in the early years, the leadership team determined that there were construction challenges associated with the floodplain and building on the north end of the property. So, they changed direction and set their sights on some additional acreage owned by Laurence and Ruby Chaplin, which was situated directly south of the parking lot of the apartment complex.

The 1984 capital campaign was very successful and land purchasing negotiations were as well. The Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor purchased the southern portion of the current property in 1985 for $65,000. Construction for the first duplex was completed in 1986. The first occupants participated in the estate preservation plan to help build the two units and the couples moved in right away.

The land purchased in 1984 had room for more duplexes, however, interest in the project waivered and did not move forward. Presbyterian Manor was also experiencing a downturn in interest in the apartments. With so many vacant apartments, it was not feasible and did not make sense to increase residence inventory with additional duplex units.

At that time, the focus was redirected to apartment living. In the original apartment construction, floor plans included studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment options in the 93 units. To further meet the needs and demands of the market, Presbyterian Manor began renovating a couple of apartments to create an additional apartment option to include the one-bedroom large floor plan, which entailed removing the wall between the bedrooms in the two-bedroom apartment. This slight change met some of the needs, however, census continued to struggle.

The building was aging, and the original apartment designs were not as appealing to new retirees. Lynne Lawrence was the executive director from 1996-2005. Under her leadership and with the assistance of Margaret Wahlborg, marketing director, Presbyterian Manor received its first face lift in time for its 20th anniversary celebration. The décor and furnishing in each of the common spaces throughout the campus were updated creating a sense of newness and appeal for potential residents.

Additional apartment options also were created—the one-bedroom suite, which combined a studio and one-bedroom apartment, and the two-bedroom deluxe, which combined two one-bedroom apartments. Over the years, between combining apartments to create larger living options and designating apartments for either office or storage space, the total number of apartments in independent and assisted living was reduced to 70. The additional apartment options were popular immediately and have remained occupied with an overall average for the past 10-15 years well above 95 percent occupied in independent living.

As for the two duplex units, the occupancy has been 100 percent since the original opening in 1986. Throughout the years, many have asked whether additional duplexes would be built, and the answer is that it is not out of the question.

“We have been blessed by the continued support of the community throughout the years,” said Sarah Griggs, executive director. “The leadership team both locally and at the corporate level understand that we have to adapt to the changing desires of new generations who we are serving. We continue to grow and expand our services and programs each year to meet the new demands.”

Griggs said the expansion of additional duplexes has been a possibility for the past several years and Presbyterian Manor is open to opportunities for partnerships.

In the photo: following the completion of renovations at the campus’ 20th anniversary, residents and leadership conducted a ribbon cutting. Former Executive Director Lynne Lawrence cuts the ribbon surrounded by residents and Advisory committee members. Inset is a photo of a duplex, a housing option that was an important part of the campus’ expansion in the mid 1980s. The residences prove to be popular additions to the campus.

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