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After a four years of planning, site work should begin this summer on a Billings Heights facility for active seniors.

In 2010, St. John’s Lutheran Ministries announced plans to build WyndStone, which was expected to open last year near Skyview High.

But the national recession made financing and advance reservations more difficult than expected.

Rather than build it alone, St. John’s teamed up with St. Vincent Healthcare to form Missions United, which will build a three-story senior complex off Wicks Lane. The building will be a “little sister” to their first joint venture, Mission Ridge on the St. John’s campus at 3840 Rimrock Road.

For the past two years, no one has moved into Mission Ridge without being on a waiting list, said St. John’s chief executive Kent Burgess, who said the original West End campus is now landlocked.

“If you went to anybody that works in this field and said what would you do if you were us? They’d say, build a second project,” he said. “So, we’re taking that Mission Ridge brand and we’re moving it to the Heights.”

Site preparation will begin in July and construction in September.

Mission Ridge has 182 apartments. The Heights complex off Wicks Lane will have 72 apartments, including 48 for independent living and 24 for seniors requiring some assistance.

CTA Architects Engineers principal Greg Matthews said bid invitations will be sent to local contractors soon and

the winner will become a partner in the project under what’s called a “construction manager at risk” model.

“We will be hiring a general contractor or construction manager early in the design process to help with budgeting, schedule and reviewing building issues,” said Matthews.

The 85,000-square-foot senior facility, with dining areas, a fitness center and a pool, is a significant project for the Billings community, he said.

Mission Ridge and WyndStone retirement counselor Lisa Sorensen said most of the 33 couples or individuals who have put down deposits for a place at WyndStone live in the Heights or around Huntley, Worden and Shepherd.

“We hear that all the time. The Heights needs something like this,” she said.

Ten people or couples have paid a deposit of $2,000 to reserve a specific WyndStone apartment. Another 23 paid deposits of $1,000 for any apartment when the facility opens in the spring of 2016. Most of the deposits are refundable.

The financing isn’t finalized yet for the $13 million facility, Burgess said, but interest rates remain relatively low.

WyndStone will sit on eight acres donated by the neighboring and newly dedicated Atonement Lutheran Church. WyndStone also sits next to the century-old little white church that was moved to Billings from Box Elder.

WyndStone won’t include nursing home beds because building those facilities requires approval from the state of Montana, which is unlikely because other Billings facilities has some empty beds, Burgess said.

“Someone could build a hospital, but we can’t get a license for a 12-bed nursing home in the Heights,” he said.

St. John’s chief operating officer David Trost said slow economic times delayed the project, but the economy and housing markets are stronger now.

“What’s beautiful about this whole thing is WyndStone has entered a new chapter in its development,” he said.

When someone is ready to move in, he or she pays an entrance fee ranging from $75,000 to $145,000, depending on the size of the apartment. The fee is 90 percent refundable. The monthly rent won’t be set until the construction costs are finalized, Burgess said, but expects it to range from $1,900 a month for smaller apartments to $2,800 for the largest.

Mission Ridge and WyndStone are aimed at middle-income seniors who own their own home, Burgess said. December’s average sales price of a single-family home, excluding mobile homes, in Yellowstone County was $236,228.

Residents of four St. John’s facilities, Mission Ridge, WyndStone, The Willows in Red Lodge and The Crossings in Laurel, get priority for the scarce nursing home rooms at the Rimrock and Shiloh Road campus, Burgess said.

“This is a private long-term care benefit with priority access to higher levels of care at a reduced monthly fee,” he said.

The discount is $500 per month for assisted living at St. John’s and $750 per month for nursing home care, where costs start at $6,509 per month.

More people in their 60s and 70s are planning years in advance for the time they will have to move into a senior facility, Sorensen said.

“They’ve gone through a situation with their parents that has been unpleasant and they say, ‘We don’t want the same thing to happen to us,’ ” Sorensen said.

Some people are reserving apartments a decade, even 15 years, before they need them, she said.



Business editor for the Billings Gazette.