ROME, Georgia – This month The Spires at Berry College, a continuing care retirement community on the campus of Berry College, welcomed its first residents.
The community began construction in October of 2018 and has opened 55 of the 144 apartment home units. The 26 free-standing cottage homes will open on June 15. More than 70% of the community is pre-sold at this time, and residents that have been part of the Charter Member Group are planning their moves over the next several months.
The Spires was planned by the Berry College Board of Trustees several years ago, and the Board of Directors is excited to see the community come to fruition. Dr. Steve Briggs, President of Berry College has been intimately involved with the community since its beginning, and he is looking forward to welcoming his mother, Betty Briggs, this week.
“Serving on the Lavender Mountain Senior Living Board of Directors since its creation in September of 2015 has been a joy and a privilege,” said Sue Anderson, Board President. “The leadership of Berry College had a dream to build a world-class continuing care retirement community on their campus, and they have done it. As with everything that Berry College does, it was planned and executed with great care and precision.”
The Spires is a gated, private community for those ages 55+. The Spires Commons areas include a fourth-floor Club Room overlooking Eagle Lake and Lavender Mountain, three dining venues, an indoor saltwater swimming pool, a Fitness Room, a beauty salon and spa, Arts Studio and a large multi-purpose room for special events.
The community will open the Apartments East, Longleaf Lodge, and Magnolia Place Healthcare Center on October 1.
“There are many potential challenges when creating a community of this size,” said Brian Erb, Vice President of Finance for Berry College and Treasurer of Lavender Mountain Senior Living. “To be able to open this community on time and within budget despite all the obstacles of COVID-19 and wet weather this spring is a huge testament to the team involved in this project.”
The Board of Directors engaged Greenbrier Development, a senior living development firm headquartered in Dallas, TX to lead the construction, development, marketing, and finance of The Spires. Greenbrier Senior Living will oversee all operations. Brasfield & Gorrie was the general contractor for the project, and Ziegler Financial provided funding for the community.
Part of the key to the success of The Spires is hiring the right team members to lead the community. Buster Wright, Board Member for Lavender Mountain Senior Living, was an important part of interviewing this team.
“When looking for the right leaders for The Spires, we wanted to find people who had a great passion for senior adults as well as a great passion for students,” said Wright. “I’m delighted with the folks that have joined this team.”
Laurie Steber was chosen as Executive Director of The Spires, and she has been working the last seven months to gather the executive team to lead this exciting new community. Laurie moved to Rome, GA from Chapel Hill, NC for this opportunity. Most recently, Laurie served as the Executive Director at Preston Pointe, a luxury retirement community in Cary, NC.
Steber has worked in retirement living for the past 15 years, but her entire career has been focused on serving customers. She started her career in Mobile, Alabama where she owned a bed and breakfast. “I always feel like my community should feel like a big bed and breakfast – residents should feel comfortable asking for anything, and our job is to make their lives as wonderful as possible,” says Steber.
Opening The Spires in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was not ideal, but residents have been planning their moves for several months and are ready and willing to move to The Spires. Part of this readiness came from extensive preparations by the team at The Spires to ensure the cleanliness and health safety of our residents and guests.
“As of today, Georgia remains under shelter-in-place for people 65+, so we are limiting guests and visitors to come to The Spires,” said Laurie Steber, Executive Director. All guests and team members must complete a health check to enter the community, and everyone is required to wear a face mask in all common area spaces and practice social distancing. Hand sanitation stations are readily available throughout the campus and our Housekeeping team has been sanitizing all common area spaces and high touch areas three times a day.
“We are going to operate on an overly-cautious plan at this time,” said Steber. “Within a short period of time, we will provide COVID-19 testing throughout the campus to ensure everyone is staying healthy.”
Nick Lancaster is the Healthcare Administrator at The Spires. Nick has provided a great deal of local knowledge to develop the healthcare program at The Spires. Magnolia Place Healthcare Center will provide private apartments for Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing Care, and Rehabilitation Care. The community has partnered with Floyd Medical Center and Dr. Amanda Reeves to be the in-house physician. In addition, Functional Pathways will provide Rehabilitation Services for residents on an in-patient and out-patient basis.
In addition to Nick Lancaster, Laurie has hired Lemarr Gass to lead the Accounting Team, Tracy Cochran as Director of Nursing, Chandler Lawrence to serve as Lifestyles Director, Dianne Willerson to oversee Human Resources, and Kevin Burges to manage Housekeeping.
Kasey Cromer is the Dining Services Director. Executive Chef Vernon Browning, the former Executive Chef for Berry College, is leading the three Dining Venues at The Spires: Eagle’s Landing Lounge, Cliffside Casual Dining, and Lakeside Formal Dining. Residents at The Spires receive monthly meal credits to enjoy in any of the dining venues. Menu items will range from a full breakfast in the mornings to sandwiches and salads for lunch and a full array of dinner entrees. When possible, the kitchen team will use local and seasonal ingredients to create ever-changing menus at The Spires.
“Berry College is known for a long-standing tradition of producing agricultural products like honey, produce and beef,” said Vernon Browning, Executive Chef. “We’ll be taking advantage of these outstanding local products whenever possible.”
One big distinction that sets the team at The Spires apart from other communities of its kind is the presence of Berry College students that serve the residents of The Spires. Several student workers are part of the Gate of Opportunity Scholars Program and are required to work at least 30 hours per week at The Spires. These students serve in various roles from Concierge to Server to Housekeeping.
“My past experience working in the Berry College Welcome Center led me to this position at The Spires, said Ahjanayyah Warren, a rising sophomore at Berry College studying Psychology. “When I first heard about The Spires coming to Berry College I thought, ‘why in the world would we want to have retirees on our campus?’ Now that I am here and meeting all of these special residents, it is so obvious. I can’t wait to learn and grow with these wonderful people,” said Warren.
Residents moving to The Spires are predominately from the Rome area, but several residents are returning to Berry College after being away for several years. Ted and Beverly Fox lived in the Atlanta area for the past several decades, but returning to Berry was an obvious choice for Ted.
“I worked on this campus as one of ‘Martha’s Boys’ back in the 1950s, and I remember Possum Trot,” said Mr. Fox. “Now coming to The Spires, I feel like I am moving into heaven with all my good friends around and the beauty of Berry College to enjoy. What really makes it nice is having the students around.”
More than 80% of the residents of The Spires are not affiliated with Berry College, but they have come to think of Berry College as their new home campus. The residents look forward to a time when they can enjoy all the amenities of the college – including auditing classes alongside students.
About The Spires at Berry College
The Spires at Berry College is a visionary new Continuing Care Retirement Community that opened June 1, 2020 alongside pristine Eagle Lake at the foot of Lavender Mountain, nestled on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia – “America’s most beautiful college campus.” The Spires will offer the security of accessible healthcare services, including renowned medical centers in downtown Rome only minutes away, and spacious apartments and cottages equipped with lifestyle amenities. The Spires will provide lakeside senior living for the un-retiring retirees. The community is being built by Brasfield & Gorrie Construction Company and started construction in October of 2018. For more information or to apply for a position at The Spires, please visit www.retireatberry.com or call (706) 368-9955.
The Spires is a gated, private community that is currently closed to outside visitors to protect the health of our residents. Appointments can be made by calling the Information Center at (706) 368-9955 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.