Residents were outside enjoying more than just the sunshine on a recent May day at Metairie Manor. Pat Bibeau, with her dog Lucy beside her, was watering the dianthus, verbena, petunias, roses and other flowers that she planted in the newly installed raised flowerbeds. Bibeau, a Metairie Manor resident for 2 1/2 years, said she comes out twice daily to care for her flowerbed. She appreciates the improvements at the Metairie independent living complex run by the archdiocese’s Christopher Homes.
“I love them,” she said. “It’s beautiful. The dining room area, the church, the computer and exercise area…”
Nearby, others chatted in the shade of new gazebos.
“Somebody said before they had this (gazebo), they hadn’t met anyone,” resident Kate Dinwiddie said. “They’d stay in their room. We have a very nice time out here. We all gregariously exchange stories.”
“We definitely have more people coming out enjoying the new garden – people we hadn’t seen outside before,” said community manager Flo Ronan.
Christopher Homes’ flagship
Metairie Manor, the flagship of Christopher Homes’ properties with 369 independent living apartments, recently underwent a $3.5 million interior and exterior facelift with upgraded lighting and energy efficiency and an expansion of common areas in the main building. Building 2 received upgraded lighting.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond will visit June 4 at 11 a.m. to bless the completed project, including a dedication of the new flowerbeds and gazebos in memory of the late Thomas Perkins, the first executive director of Christopher Homes. Perkins had been tapped by Archbishop Philip Hannan to complete his vision of offering affordable housing for the elderly.
“This, in essence, is what Tom was all about – doing something to benefit residents,” current Christopher Homes executive director Deacon Dennis Adams said.
Metairie Manor upgrades
The reconfigured entrance is one of the most noticeable changes. The reception desk was moved to the center of the main entrance at Metairie Manor I. The beauty shop, computer room and gift shop were expanded, as was office space to accommodate a reception area for families wanting to take a tour or fill out an application. Private office space where residents can meet with staff also has been expanded.
Additional community space was afforded to residents in the form of a multi-purpose room and fitness room with treadmills, stationary bikes and standing and sit-down elliptical machines.
The new look includes an expansion and facelift of the dining room – where affordable meals are available, and Mardi Gras balls, senior proms, meetings and other functions are held. There also is new flooring and lighting and a dedicated area for the chapel, where daily and Saturday Mass are offered.
“It is totally different than we had before,” Ronan said.
The dining area also offers a place residents can mingle as opposed to sitting in their individual rooms waiting for mealtime.
“This space is now much more adequate for that use,” Deacon Adams said. “The thing about it is residents go there first thing in the morning to gather and talk. … These community spaces give them places to gather and have social time with each other and draw them out of their rooms.”
The timing was right for the renovation, Deacon Adams said. Over the past few years, he has been working to refinance Metairie Manor and use the reduced cost-debt service to provide capital improvements that include more supportive services for residents such as the continuation of affordable meals, transportation and exercise equipment for the new health room.
Addition badly needed
Deacon Adams said the Archdiocese of New Orleans worked with FEMA, using an alternate project worksheet, to use reimbursements from one of the apartment buildings destroyed in Hurricane Katrina at St. Bernard Manor to build a new, fourth building with 82 apartments at Metairie Manor. It is a welcome addition, considering the number of residents on the waiting list to obtain an apartment. The projected completion date of Metairie Manor IV is fall 2014.
HMS, the builders of the new apartment building at St. Bernard Manor, also is constructing this project on archdiocesan-owned property adjacent to the existing buildings. This $10 million building is similar in amenities and will offer larger apartment space as exists at the new St. Bernard Manor, Deacon Adams said, but its exterior will resemble the existing brick of Metairie Manor.
Christopher Homes also is making improvements at other sites. The fourth phase of expansion at Rouquette Lodge in Mandeville is underway; a new building is in the works at Villa St. Maurice in New Orleans; and St. Martin Manor is undergoing a renovation. A new independent living apartment building also is slated for Slidell on Gause Boulevard at the former Tiger Drive In. This marks Christopher Homes’ entry into elderly housing in Slidell.
Christopher Homes continues the legacy started by Archbishop Philip Hannan more than 45 years ago. Adams said just as Archbishop Hannan named this ministry Christopher for its meaning of Christ-bearer, “like Christ we help bear the needs of the residents to provide a decent place for them to live in their twilight years.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.