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40 new residents settle into Westminster Canterbury's newest independent living building

View story at The News & Advance...The new independent living apartments, called Riverside, at Westminster Canterbury are complete and house 40 new residents.

The Riverside apartments are located on the top three floors of Westminster Canterbury’s original Drinkard building and were designed to meet a demand for larger, more open residences.

The exterior of the building was redesigned to feature floor-to-ceiling windows, maximizing the connection to the outdoors and enhancing the natural light within the residences.

Floor plans range from 423 square-feet to more than 2,000 square-feet and cost between $55,000 and $500,000 depending on size and contract.

“In our continuing efforts to improve the quality of life for current and future residents, Westminster Canterbury has converted three floors of vacant space into 26 bright, spacious apartments with balconies,” Sean Huyett, president and CEO of Westminster Canterbury in Lynchburg, said.
Riverside was designed by Roanoke-based SCS Architects, with real estate consulting services by Matthews Development of Charlottesville and construction by Jamerson-Lewis Construction of Lynchburg.

“Renovations to our assisted living neighborhoods in the building plus a new parking deck were part of the $25 million project completed in March,” he said.

Huyett said Riverside was conceived in 2021 and noted renovating a 40-year-old building during the COVID-19 pandemic presented certain challenges.

“Our team made early strategic decisions to procure materials to ensure that the overall project was completed on time and budget,” he said.

Although Westminster Canterbury owns additional land that is undeveloped, there are no current plans for a new project, he said.

Bill and Mary Jane Hobbs moved into an apartment at Riverside in January.

Mary Jane Hobbs said her health concerns and the assurance of ongoing care played a significant role in their decision to move to Westminster Canterbury and the support and encouragement from friends who had already chosen Riverside further solidified their choice.

“So that was a big reason and everybody was so positive about,” she said. “And it turned out to be the right thing.”

Bill Hobbs said he enjoys the open and spacious layout, featuring large glass windows that provide a view of the surrounding area.

Regardless of whether the apartments face the north or south side, the abundance of glass allows ample natural light to fill the living spaces, he said.

“And in December, it was quite open but since all the trees have fleshed out a whole lot, a lot of our fellow residents have said what a nice view it is. And on the other side on VES Road, there’s a nice view of woods out there,” he said.

He explained downsizing from a significantly larger home of 3,300 square-feet to his current two-bedroom apartment has been a comfortable transition. The living area seamlessly combines the kitchen and living room, resulting in a well-designed space that maximizes efficiency.

“We were sort of flabbergasted to think that we’re moving into 1,100 square-feet,” Mary Jane Hobbs said. “But that’s not been a problem with the all the good storage and they’re very quiet. We can’t hear our neighbors and hopefully they can’t hear us. It’s private, and yet it’s not private. It’s perfect.”

Paul and Tricia Price moved to Riverside from their 4,000-square-foot home in Atlanta in January.
The Prices considered various locations before choosing Riverside, taking into account factors such as quality nursing homes, non-profit status, resident involvement and overall community atmosphere.

Paul Price said he appreciates the neighborhood-like atmosphere and the age-defying energy that permeates the community. Coming from neighborhoods where transitory apartment living didn’t foster a sense of connection, Price said the residents at Riverside and Westminster Canterbury have created a true neighborhood feeling.

“People who aren’t familiar with a place like this should realize that this environment keeps people young,” he said. “We’re some of the youngest people here, but people in their 80s are just as active as we are and just as sharp. And that’s partly because of the environment.”

Gil Cobbs moved to Riverside in March but is no stranger to Westminster as his wife and aunt have lived there for years.

He said there is an emotional challenge of leaving a cherished home behind after 17 years of memories and personal touches. However, he recognizes the necessity of preparing for the future, particularly considering his wife’s dementia diagnosis adding the supportive staff have made all the difference.
Cobbs said living at Westminster is like living in a resort.

“They treat you well and care for you in an excellent fashion,” he said.

He said each apartment at Riverside reflects diversity and individuality and especially enjoys the common space for gatherings adding that it’s important to foster social interactions with his neighbors.
Laura Hunter, the director of marketing at Westminster Canterbury, said there is a strong demand for two-bedroom, two-bathroom housing, emphasizing the community could sell another building tomorrow if it wanted to.

In just 24 hours, Riverside managed to sell 70% of its apartments.

Hunter describes the active and engaging atmosphere at Riverside, particularly noting the use of the fourth-floor common space as a gathering spot for residents. She said resident input is highly valued in every aspect of campus life, from committees focused on grounds and wellness to marketing decisions.

“There’s this wonderful, quiet respect for one another that if you want to be left alone, and just want to read, people get it, but yet if you want to socialize, you have opportunities for that,” she said. “There’s really no limit to backgrounds and diversity that you can get to know people and you do it on your terms.”