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Bethesda construction continues

Welsh Construction project superintendent Dan Flynn reviews plans for a two-story, long-term care building Thursday. It will be constructed in Willmar and connected to an existing wing of Bethesda Pleasant View. (TRIBUNE/Rand Middleton)1 / 2
An excavator digs Thursday where the short-term therapy building will be extended from the Club Bethesda Wellness Center, in background. (TRIBUNE/Rand Middleton)2 / 2

The silt fences are up and heavy equipment is crawling around on the site of new construction at Bethesda Pleasant View in Willmar.

With the arrival of spring, work is moving ahead in earnest on a $21 million project to unite Bethesda Health and Housing services on one campus.

Bethesda also is rebooting its capital campaign to raise $3 million in support of the project.

An early snowstorm brought a halt last November to preparation of the construction site, leaving the project on hold through the winter.

“Now we’re anxious to get back up and running,” said Michelle Haefner, chief executive of Bethesda. “People will start to see a lot of action.”

The project involves replacing the aging Heritage facility with new “neighborhood”-style long-term care beds on the Pleasant View site. A 36-bed short-term stay and therapy center is being developed on the east end of the campus. A new “town center” with a cafe and chapel will create spaces where people can gather and mingle and the community can be invited in.

Completion will be in the spring of 2016.

The project reflects a changing paradigm for how services are provided to older adults: more options, more flexibility, an environment that is home-like rather than institutional, and an emphasis on social connections, activity and the needs of the whole person.

Bethesda leaders want this vision to resonate as construction and the capital campaign move forward.

“We’re doing business differently because the market demands it,” said John A. Martin, partner and chief executive with MGI Fund Raising Consulting Inc. “When I age in place, I want a spinning class here.”

Community support is key to the success of the capital campaign, which was launched last year and is ongoing. The campaign is currently at the 30-percent mark, according to Haefner.

“Our campaign leadership is in place. We’ve built our team,” Martin said. “We’re out and around, talking to people. Now we want to broaden the base.”

The campaign has a triple focus: local businesses, families who have received services through Bethesda, and “special friends,” a category that includes anyone with a desire to support care and services for older adults.

Bethesda residents have been part of the campaign since the beginning, even hosting a sold-out dinner this past winter to promote the building project among those in Bethesda’s independent and assisted living facilities.

“They’re out there telling the story for us,” Martin said.

As Bethesda leaders meet with local groups and discuss the project, one thing that stands out is the positive reaction to the town center concept, Haefner said. “The destinations and focus points are really exciting for people.”

It’s a response that Bethesda leaders have been hoping for.

Aging and long-term care are often stigmatized, Martin said. “It doesn’t matter what we tell people, it’s still there.”

The design of Bethesda’s new integrated campus will go a long way toward dispelling stereotypes and creating an environment that embraces the spectrum of aging, from wellness center to independent living to skilled care, Martin said.

“It’s creating an environment where people want to visit. They’re not abandoned,” he said. “Doing it on one campus is what makes it unique. You don’t have to leave the community. That’s the paradigm shift Bethesda is making.”

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Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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