BLOOMINGTON — Westminster Village has a new front door and it's open.
The continuing care retirement community, in the middle of a $33 million expansion and renovation project, opened its larger entrance building, facing Mercer Avenue, on Friday afternoon along with a new entrance drive from Mercer and larger parking lot.
Westminster, 2025 E. Lincoln St., also opened on Friday two new walkways connecting the Westminster common areas with two buildings for independent living apartments and for renovated administrative space.
The openings were marked with a Friday ribbon-cutting ceremony, featuring a performance of Christmas carols by the Illinois State University French Horn Choir, attended by about 250 Westminster residents and guests.
"I am incredibly happy for the residents," Westminster CEO Barb Nathan said regarding the renovation and construction work done so far. "They have put up with a lot while we created this space."
"It's been one of the more challenging projects and one of the more rewarding projects," said Scott Fehr, project manager with P.J. Hoerr, the construction manager. "Seeing everybody here today and knowing that we did this for them is a good feeling.
"And we're not even halfway done yet," he said with a smile.
Ground was broken for the project in April. Work completed in November included expanding the multipurpose room and dining room and building an addition for activity space, an art studio, salon, medical clinic and human resources.
But Friday's openings were important, especially to residents of the independent living apartments, who had to walk through the basement for several months to get to the common areas as construction of the walkways continued.
"I'm delighted," said apartment resident Nancy Littell. She, Dottie Frank and Ilene Beach were among residents who participated in ribbon cuttings because they are floor leaders.
"It was worthwhile putting up with some inconvenience for a while," Frank said.
"I'm very happy with the results so far," said Carolyn Johnston, president of the Westminster Residents' Council. "People are realizing this is going to be nice."
The old entrance drive from Lincoln Street will remain open but the former main entrance to the building will close Jan. 8, Nathan said.
Meanwhile, construction of a two-story, 40,000-square-foot building that will become the new, larger Martin Health Center skilled care building is progressing on schedule, Fehr said during a hard-hat tour of the building. The building is enclosed, and construction should be complete in June 2018 with residents moving in a couple of months later, Fehr and Nathan said.
Then renovation of the existing Martin Health Center and Westminster common areas will begin, with the project expected to wrap up in 2019.
When the work is done Westminster, which now has 220 employees, will have another 15 employees and 18 more licensed beds. Westminster has 340 residents and 341 people on its waiting list.
Future projects will involve constructing an assisted living building and renovating the existing assisted living building for independent living units.