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Bethesda opens New London location just in time to celebrate 125 years in operation

Bethesda North Pointe, in rural New London, is the newest senior living community in Kandiyohi County. Construction of the $21 million project began in the fall of 2019 and the facility is set to begin welcoming new residents this fall.

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Located on 11-acres of woodlands near New London, the $21 million Bethesda North Pointe senior living community has 70 apartments, with half of the units designated as independent senior living and the other half for advance care and memory care. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune
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NEW LONDON — Set among rolling hills covered in prairie grass and oak trees, Bethesda North Pointe, in rural New London, is the newest senior living community in Kandiyohi County .

Construction of the $21 million project began in the fall of 2019 and the facility is set to begin welcoming new residents this fall — just as Bethesda launches its year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

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Founded in 1897, Bethesda operates its flagship, multi-faceted senior care facility complex in Willmar, as well as an assisted living facility in Olivia.

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Michelle Haefner, CEO/President of Bethesda

Plans to build Bethesda North Pointe began about five years ago when market analysis revealed that residents in this region were looking for senior living options closer to home, said Michelle Haefner, CEO at Bethesda.

She said they saw “a trend in the zip codes” of people being served on the Willmar Bethesda campus that indicated many were from northern Kandiyohi County, which revealed a need for services here.

If people have a choice, they want to live in their home community, she said.

Haefner said opening up a “brand-new building” that features a “future-thinking design” that can adapt to the emerging needs of an aging population is the perfect way to kick off the organization’s 125th year.

She said the goal of Bethesda North Pointe is to “transform the way we look at aging in our community” and provide options in Kandiyohi County for the “highest quality of care” that helps people live well in their senior years with opportunities for social interaction and active living.

The view from practically every window, balcony, door and rooftop gathering decks at Bethesda North Pointe overlooks woods, hills and grasslands. Carolyn Lange / West Central TribuneOutdoor setting

Tucked in the 11-acre bucolic landscape between New London and Spicer with views of prairie and trees and room to expand for future growth, the lodge-style architecture of the 100,915-square-foot facility was designed to reflect the setting, Haefner said.

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“We were looking for something that had a beautiful landscape and outdoor spaces for people to enjoy,” Haefner said, reflecting on the search for property to build Bethesda North Pointe.

Outdoor space is important for their “model of care” and this site, she said. Located just down the road from the Carris Health New London Clinic, close to the Little Crow Golf Course and in between New London and Spicer on a quiet road just off of state Highway 23, the property “checked off many of the boxes,” Haefner said.

“It’s just a serene environment,” Haefner said, with plenty of green space and a “lodgy, outdoorsy-type atmosphere.”

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Featuring large exposed beams inside and outside, the $21 million Bethesda North Pointe senior living community near New London has the appearance – and the amenities – of a north woods lodge. Construction started in the fall of 2019 and was recently completed. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

With large exposed beams in the vaulted, two-story entrance, a floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace, a rooftop lounge and club lounge for cocktail hour, football games and other group gatherings, Bethesda North Pointe looks like it could be a north country resort. It also features a chapel, Brothers Cafe, intergenerational play spaces, dining services, library, workshops, salon, activity center, spa, wellness center and physical therapy space.

The Club Bethesda wellness center has a full-range of exercise equipment ready for use, and by the end of 2022 — pending the fundraising campaign — an indoor pickleball court and warm water swimming pool will be constructed.

Haefner said Club Bethesda at North Pointe will have the same footprint, programs and classes offered on the Willmar campus, with memberships accepted at either location.

The wellness center, along with the other services available, will give Bethesda North Pointe a full range of amenities designed to meet the needs of this “senior lifestyle community,” said Haefner. The design of the building, along with a state-of-the-art model of care, is meant to provide “purposeful living” for seniors to be as independent as long as possible, she said.

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Knowing that the demographics of the country includes a growing elderly population, Haefner said communities “need to prepare for the future.” But she said it shouldn’t be just for the sake of growth, but to meet the new “needs and desires” of this generation that differs from past generations.

Levels of care

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The view from practically every window, balcony, door and rooftop gathering decks at Bethesda North Pointe overlooks woods, hills and grasslands. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

Half of the apartments in the 70-unit Bethesda North Pointe are classified as independent-living and assisted-living residences. There are 18 advanced care assisted-living residences and 18 memory care assisted-living units.

Haefner said the “generously sized” apartments range in size from a studio to two bedrooms/two baths with a kitchen and living room. Most apartments have access to private outdoor space, like a patio or second-floor balcony. There is a large, heated underground parking area available for residents and the one-way, in-and-out traffic pattern will make it easy for family members to pick up residents during inclement weather.

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Club Bethesda is equipped with a variety of exercise equipment. It’s expected that by the end of 2022 an indoor pickleball court and therapy swimming pool will be added to the wellness center. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

The different types of care options — including full dining, nursing, personal care, recreation schedules, wellness programming, personal training and transportation — are designed to meet a variety of needs of residents.

“The goal is to stay in this community as their needs change,” said Haefner, and as those needs change, so will the services.

A variety of room-size options can allow couples to stay together, even if the health needs of one person changes, or one spouse can live in a secure memory unit with their partner living in a small studio apartment nearby.

While a variety of services are available, it should be noted that Bethesda North Pointe is not a traditional skilled nursing facility.

Economics of senior care

The response to Bethesda North Pointe was quick and positive and, after just one month of construction, the 34 independent and assisted independent living units were already reserved.

“It really helped us see there was a need and that people were excited about it,” said Haefner.

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Tastefully decorated sunrooms and family gathering rooms are scattered throughout Bethesda North Pointe. Carolyn Lange / West Central Tribune

There are still openings for the advanced and memory care units, but Haefner said but those types of apartments are typically not requested until there is an immediate need. She said the overall occupancy so early in the project was “more than what we expected.”

That response gives Haefner confidence that the economics of Bethesda North Pointe will “fall into place.”

It’s expected that North Pointe will have about 55 full-time-equivalent employees, ranging from managers, nursing and culinary staff, and personal care providers to maintenance and housekeeping staff, chaplain and wellness, activities and recreation leaders.

The project represents a “strong commitment to the area, a major capital investment on the part of Bethesda, and I think Bethesda has a strong story to tell,” said Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, who said there continues to be a “strong demand for more housing for seniors.”

People interested in learning more about Bethesda North Pointe should call the welcome center at 320-214-5643.

Meanwhile, at the Bethesda Willmar campus, work is concluding on a three-phase, $5 million improvement project that began in 2017 and includes a new chapel, town center, cafe and children’s play area. The final stage of updating the residential neighborhoods will be done by the end of 2022.

This story was originally published in the West Central Tribune's IMPACT edition on Oct. 23, 2021. More stories in this section can be found at https://issuu.com/westcentraltribune/docs/impact_2021

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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