$150 million project @ The Kenney: “Reinventing ourselves”


That cupola at The Kenney, the century-old senior-care complex in Fauntleroy, is a West Seattle landmark. As part of the major redevelopment project that The Kenney is planning, the building it’s part of will be demolished – but hold on, the cupola’s not going away. WSB obtained extensive details of the proposed project, just as The Kenney starts applying for city permits (its project page is now online here) and rolling out the plan to residents, neighbors, and community groups. Read on to find out about the big changes in the works:

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the start of construction is more than a year away, The Kenney’s CEO Kevin McFeely already has spent two years working on the $150 million project that will more than double the facility’s capacity and dramatically change the look of its sprawling site in Fauntleroy (map).

“We’re basically reinventing ourselves,” McFeely explained during a conversation with WSB in his office last week. It’s not so much that The Kenney wants to change, he explains, but that it has to change — because the needs of its prospective residents are changing.

Residents and family members at The Kenney already have received a briefing about the plan, which is unquestionably a dramatic change for the site known not only for that cupola, but for its park-like western lawn, some of which will be built on, some of which will be preserved as open space inside the complex.

Before we go into the details described during our conversation with The Kenney’s CEO, some of the background: Next year marks a full century since the first residents moved into the facility that was the realization of a dream held by Samuel and Jessie Kenney, who died in 1895 and 1900, respectively, and willed their estate toward its creation. It is a nonprofit, governed by a board of directors.

The Seaview building, the one with the cupola, was its original building, accepting its first residents in 1909. The “health center” building – which serves as a traditional nursing home, with nursing care – opened in 1964; the Ballymena Apartments opened in 1985, and the Lincoln Vista building, including some newer apartments and office space, opened in 2003. The Kenney currently is home to 185 people, and could house 400 when its project is complete.

Part of the problem is space, not just for more people, but more space for each of those people. “Some of our apartments are like college dorms, 300 square feet,” CEO McFeely explains. “How do you downsize to that if you’re coming from a 10-room home?” Particularly, he notes, with seniors staying more active in retirement, and inviting families to come visit them in their new digs — places they move into because a “continuum of care” is available, where they might start out in an independent apartment, and then eventually need the nursing care offered by the Health Center.

Seniors want dining options, too, he says, beyond the typical 3-meals-daily-in-the-dining-room scenario. “Part of the expansion will involve expanding people’s options — a bistro, cafe, or sports bar, not just the dining room.”

As they are just now applying for permits (here’s that first city project page again), they don’t have full renderings of the proposal to share just yet. They have contracted with AG Architecture, a Wisconsin-based firm that’s been working in the senior-living field for more than 30 years. But here are the basics McFeely outlined in our conversation, as he again stressed, “this is a big project, no question”:

SEAVIEW BUILDING: This is the original building, the one with the cupola. It is to be demolished — and “replicated,” McFeely says, cupola and all — “we will keep the cupola, we have no intentions of getting rid of that!” — on the site’s northeastern corner, along Fauntleroy at Myrtle. The problem with the current one is that “its hallways are too narrow, its rooms are too small.” From an “economic perspective,” McFeely elaborated, it can’t be gutted and reconfigured in its current location because of the way it was built — “every wall is a supporting wall.” He feels that in addition to the increased interior space, there will be a community benefit to making the new, replicated Seaview building more visible from busy Fauntleroy and environs.

BALLYMENA AND SUNRISE BUILDINGS: Also to be demolished, with new buildings to ring the property with additional apartments. (The Ballymena is the building visible from the west side of The Kenney along 47th, and is home to its independent-living apartments. The Sunrise building is toward the southeast side of the site.)

SKILLED NURSING CARE: The Health Center will get a new building — McFeely describes the current one as “tired, old-looking” — on the southwest corner of the property, where The Kenney currently owns seven rental properties (all currently occupied) that will be torn down as part of the project. The capacity of the skilled-nursing unit, however, is to remain at 20, according to McFeely.

NEW UNIT: As part of the rebuilt Health Center, The Kenney plans to add a Memory Support Unit for the first time, to care for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients. This unit will be able to care for 15 people.

TOTAL NUMBER OF APARTMENTS: About 110 will be added in the two phases of the project, in addition to the replacements for the 80-plus in two of the buildings to be demolished, so the end result will be 194 apartments.

PARKING: An underground garage is planned, with an entrance from 47th; it’ll hold 176 spaces, according to the application just filed with the city.

HEIGHT: Mc Feely says, “It will be like a 3-story building around the perimeter, more like 4 stories ‘in the bowl’ — it won’t be higher than what we have now.”

TREES: “We don’t know how many trees we may lose,” McFeely acknowledges. The project will require design review, and that is generally part of the process. “Some will be protected trees, some may be relocated, as happened when we built Lincoln Vista [in 2003]. There will continue to be green areas, we just won’t have the [current] park-type setting – apartments are going onto that spot.”

WILL IT BE “GREEN-BUILT”? Yes, but to which level/standard, he says he doesn’t know yet; operationally, The Kenney is a trendsetter with some of the procedures it’s put into place (here’s recent WSB coverage) via its “Green Team.”

MONEY: As mentioned earlier, this is a $150 million project, and The Kenney is a nonprofit operation. Right now, McFeely says, they’re doing a feasibility study on a potential capital campaign for the new project; the committee in charge of that will meet again next month.

EFFECTS ON CURRENT RESIDENTS: McFeely says they had plenty of questions when they were first briefed on the plan, and those questions continue: “Some of the seniors here are saying, ‘this works, why change?’ – their generation scrimped and saved” and is used to making more out of less, so they don’t necessarily mind the space contraints and simplicity of the dining operations, for example. But change is on the way with the aging Baby Boom generation, and the need for more space along that “care continuum,” and the next generation of seniors has a different paradigm from the frugality of previous generations: “People who are coming to us now don’t have that experience,” so their expectations differ, he says.

COMMUNITY GROUP MEETING SPACE: This is one aspect of The Kenney that McFeely promises will not change with the redevelopment — its service to the community by offering free meeting space; groups such as the Morgan Community Association meet there regularly.

Here’s what happens next with this project:

–City reviews, now that the application is officially in the system – this will include Southwest Design Review Board public meetings along the way, and also a review of landmark nominations for the two oldest buildings involved in the project, since they are 50-plus years old.

–Next month, McFeely says, The Kenney plans to start a series of meetings with community groups and organizations including MoCA, Fauntleroy Community Association, the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the West Seattle Junction Association, and many more.

–Regarding construction timetable — in a “perfect world,” according to McFeely, construction would start in early 2010, and will be done in two phases — the first phase will focus on the south side of the property, tearing down the rental homes to build the new nursing/memory-support-unit building, and also adding assisted-living units toward the southeast side of the property (where he says they’ve been unable to acquire one piece of property they were hoping to buy to include in this). The first phase of construction would last about 14 months, with a 3-month transition following it, for moving residents into the new assisted-living apartments. Phase 2 would start by the end of 2011, and the entire project would be done by 2014.

2 Replies to "$150 million project @ The Kenney: "Reinventing ourselves""

  • Manuel Wanskasmith August 18, 2008 (1:51 pm)

    Thank you for putting this information together. My grandmother lives in the health center. I hope they update that part of the building along with everything else.

  • fiz August 19, 2008 (10:59 pm)

    Hopefully they will soon have a facility as wonderful as their staff – can’t say enough good things about them.

Sorry, comment time is over.