New digs for St. Mark’s

Published 11:08am Monday, April 15, 2013

Lutheran Home shows off $13.4M expansion

Shirley Bogdanich worked at St. Mark’s in her 20s, and on Saturday afternoon she was impressed by the addition where she one day expects to live.

“This is wonderful,” she said. “Beautiful.”

Bogdanich was touring one of the new assisted living rooms of the $13.4-million remodel at St. Mark’s Lutheran Home during an open house for the public.

The remodel adds memory care rooms, a new wing of living quarters, new community space, dining areas, rehab facilities and more.

Executive Director Chris Schulz had one word to describe his first reaction to seeing the opened facility: “Fantastic.”

Brad Johnson, president of St. Mark’s Board of Directors, also was pleased that the roughly four-year project is nearing an end.

“It is good to see it finally open,” he said.

Bogdanich, who lives in the apartments down the campus at St. Mark’s, was a nurse’s aid at St. Mark’s in the early days of the facility, and she worked at the apartments.

She said the facility has changed a lot since she worked there, and that it’s a better facility today.

“Austin needs something like this,” Bogdanich said.

Bogdanich noted she’d have much more space in one of the assisted living rooms. Her current room is a bit small, and she’s waiting for a larger room to open up.

The room Bogdanich toured featured its own washer and drier, a spacious bathroom and closet space that impressed Bogdanich.

“It’s really nice,” she said.

An island in the kitchen also caught Bogdanich’s eye.

“You wouldn’t have to have a table; this could be it,” she said.

The new assisted living and short-term rehab units have been in use since late February and early March. So far, Schulz said the additions have received positive reviews like the one from Bogdanich.

“The community has been in; they’ve been very impressed,” Schulz said.

The assisted living unit increased from 15 beds to 25, and each is a private room with a bathroom and shower. St. Mark’s still offers 61 skilled nursing home beds, but they changed from 12 short-term rehab beds to 16 for people who typically return home.

The biggest change is the addition of 21 memory care rooms for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, which will take the place of the current assisted living and short-term rehab wings.

The project isn’t entirely finished. St. Mark’s is still putting the finishing touches on the memory care units, which are located in the former assisted living area, but Schulz said that wing is occupied. The remodel there should be completed in May.

“We’re ready to occupy it even though it isn’t 100 percent complete,” Schulz said.

Along with the changes to the rooms, there is also a new entrance on the southwest side of the building and a new chapel. While services are held at the chapel during the week, Schulz said they’re looking to bring back Sunday morning services.

“Church is Sunday, and they want to have church and a worship on Sunday,” Schulz said, noting many people expressed interest in Sunday services.

Schulz said he’s working with the pastors of the church’s St. Mark’s partners with to set up the service and a rotating schedule for the pastors. The home will continue offering services during the week, too.

St. Mark’s Activities Director Christina Viehauser said the added room will allow for more diversity in the programs offered to residents.

“There will be more spaces to provide activities,” she said.

Along with services, the chapel will also be a hub any entertainment that comes into St. Mark’s. Viehauser said the new chapel offers a better acoustics and more space for seating.

Viehauser admitted there have been a few growing pains and challenges for staff during the move, but now people are getting used to the changes.

Some said the old space, which hadn’t had a major update since the 1960s, felt more like a clinical facility, but Viehauser said this facility has a much different feel.

“Now it feels like a home,” Viehauser said.

Schulz said the new facility is a positive for Austin.

“It’s nice that it’s over,” Schulz said. “I think the community has something to be proud of.”

St. Mark’s will celebrate the facility’s 50th anniversary in July.

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