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Posted May 9, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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'A blessing'

Jan Bane executive director of Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley
Jan Bane, executive director of Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley, looks over her shoulder as rain clouds move in during the groundbreaking for Homewood's newest location in Strasburg on Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg attorney Doug Arthur and Harry S. Smith share an umbrella
Strasburg attorney Doug Arthur, left, and Harry S. Smith, chairman of the board of Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley, share an umbrella under a tent during Thursday's festivities. Rich Cooley/Daily

Even amid the pouring rain, Homewood Retirement Centers envisions nothing but blue skies for its newest retirement community.

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- There was a point during Thursday afternoon's ceremonial groundbreaking for Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley when the weather seemed to suggest it was time to begin collecting two of every animal.

The skies opened up and the rain came down in buckets, forcing the festivities under the cover of tents, where the water still managed to reach some guests and occasionally drown out the event's featured speakers.

But even as the storm caused Cedar Creek to swell and put a damper on the rolling hills and scenic mountain vistas along Old Valley Pike north of town, officials never once doubted that Homewood Retirement Centers, a church-based nonprofit based in Williamsport, Md., had found the perfect site for its seventh full-service community.

"If rain is a blessing, I've never been to a Homewood function with so much blessing," said Homewood President and CEO Ernest W. Angell.

Before performing the song "Oh, Shenandoah," local resident Richard Follett joked that the valley is so accommodating, "if you can't get to the Shenandoah River, the river will come to you."

Strasburg Mayor Tim Taylor, competing with the sound of the rain rolling off the tarps, said the company could have chosen a lot of other locations, "but you got it right picking this one."

The 58-acre site delivers on Homewood's vision of "security, privacy, stability, great friendships and freedom from worry," he said.

Construction on Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley actually began April 27. The campus-style development will offer 114 independent-living cottages -- 39 of which will be built in the first phase -- 60 apartments, 40 assisted-living units and a small health care center. A community center with dining options, a wellness center, convenience store, bank and activity rooms is also planned.

Strasburg Green developer Scott Rosenfeld and master builder Rich Hine of The Hine Group will oversee the project. The residences range from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet and will be constructed to EarthCraft House standards for green building.

The first 10 cottages are slated for completion in the fall, and reservations are currently being accepted. The project is expected to be fully built out over the next five to six years, officials said.

"Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley will offer retirees a lifestyle that is unmatched in Shenandoah County," said Homewood at the Shenandoah Valley Executive Director Jan Bane, a Strasburg native.

When the company approached her about leading its new Strasburg community last year, "I couldn't say no," Bane said, adding. "I'm home."

Homewood isn't the only continuing-care community to find a home in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

The Rockville, Md.-based National Lutheran Home, a nonprofit affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is moving forward with plans for a campus-style development on 132 acres off U.S. 50, west of Winchester, known as The Village at Orchard Ridge.

The Frederick County Board of Supervisors recently approved the rezoning of the land from rural areas (RA) to a medical support (MS) district. Construction is expected to begin next year.

The Village at Orchard Ridge will unfold in three phases, beginning with a central chapel and common area known as the "Village Green," encircled by a variety of senior living options, including apartments, townhouses and single-family cottages. Eventually, the campus will also include dining venues, a wellness center, walking trails, areas for gardening and a general store.

Officials say projects like Homewood and the Village at Orchard Ridge are a good fit for the valley, which offers natural beauty and a good quality of life. Local governments like them because they bring in tax revenue with little to no impact on crime and schools, less water usage than with traditional residential developments and local job creation.

"It has a lot of assets and not a lot of liabilities," said James R. Wilkins Jr., part owner in the development group Silver Lake LLC, which sold the property in Frederick County to the National Lutheran Home.

A site near a hospital or other medical facility is also considered ideal.

National Lutheran Home Executive Director Kristina Hughes said when her organization found itself bursting at the seams at its Rockville, Md., campus, it went looking for additional land in the Northern Virginia area, and the site off U.S. 50 near Winchester Medical Center was "perfect."

Valley Health, which owns WMC, also has opened a Quick Care center in Cedar Creek Station in Strasburg, next door to the Homewood site, along with an outpatient physical therapy unit and a drawing station for Piedmont Labs.

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