After over a decade of planning and construction residents at Mount Pleasant Home, an elder housing facility at 301 S. Huntington Ave. last month stepped out the 1920s-era facility’s former back door and into the twenty-first century.
One of the new addition’s most striking architectural features of the buildings new 30,390-square-foot, four-story addition is that it incorporates the old building’s brick rear wall, and a second-story porch, into the atrium design.
“The atrium is the unifying factor between the new building and the old building,” Mount Pleasant Director Merlin Southwick told the Gazette.
In promotional material for the recently completed addition to the original 24,480 structure, the atrium is described as an “airy, light-filled, four-season space.”
A recent Gazette tour of the new home wholly confirmed that description, with skylights and a translucent south-facing wall drenching the new addition’s dining area and community spaces—housed in the atrium—in the summer’s brilliant natural light.
The building, fitted with solar on the roof; a super-efficient air filtration system that uses out-flowing air to heat or cool incoming air; natural light during the day and other green features, will likely earn a Leadership in Engiuneering and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold energy efficiency rating—the second highest ranking, under platinum in the popular energy-efficiency rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council—Southwick said.
Mount Pleasant also features an on-site primary care clinic in the basement that will run by Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The clinic will be open to the general public as well as Mount Pleasant residents.
But residents the Gazette spoke to were crowing about other features—the new, apparently sound-dampening glass in the windows, for example. “You can’t hear the crashes the way you could before,” said resident Robin Trimble, who showed the Gazette his new Jamaicaway-facing room.
Trimble and other residents, most of whom have moved into rooms in the new wing, also get larger rooms than they had in the pre-expansion space, each with its own bathroom.
“We went from 15 to 73 toilets,” Southwick said.
The larger rooms and new amenities mean that, despite more than doubling in size, Mount Pleasant Home’s room count will only jump from 44 to 60, he said.
There are still some kinks to be worked out. Trimble, who is legally blind, said that the yellow light emitted by the bulbs in his room exacerbate his visual impairment, and that he would like to get them switched out for white bulbs.
Southwick said he would look into it.
A group of residents using a new community kitchen to bake a cake for a Hawaiian-themed party the next day were wholeheartedly enthusiastic. They told the Gazette they are thrilled by the new rooms, the private bathrooms and the promise that a flat-screen television will be installed in the new space.
Southwick told the Gazette that the construction and transition have been fairly painless. No residents have been or will be displaced during the transition process, he said. That process is near completion—contractor Delbrook construction should be done with a gut renovation of the original 44-unit building by the end off the summer, he said. Once that renovation is complete, there will be 30 larger rooms, also with their own bathrooms, in the old building.
Installing new utilities while keeping the old system running has been “kind of a puzzle,” he said. But the only real inconvinience has been that the construction work set the fire alarm off a few times, he said.
Mount Pleasant Home Outreach Director Kathy Seaman told the Gazette that Delbrook’s weekly construction updates have been well attended by residents, many of whom “used to work in the building trades.”
In the utility room in the basement of the new addition, Southwick pointed out a gaggle of quarter-inch tubes leading up into the ceiling, which he said residents would come to appreciate in the colder months. Warm water will flow through those tubes, heating the floors of the new building he said.
“Residents will be able to walk around barefoot,” he said.
Southwick told the Gazette that amenities that increase residents’ independence are particularly important at Mount Pleasant, which, he took pains to point out, is not a nursing home.
“This is a resident care facility. The distinction is we don’t do nursing here. We provide housing and supportive services for people who can’t live alone…We consider our rooms to be bedrooms in a household,” he said.
According to its website, the home puts an “emphasis on serving a diverse population, giving priority to those with limited financial resources and inadequate support systems.”