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Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Takes Next Step to Building Senior Living Community in Blowing Rock

The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge in Blowing Rock.

By Nathan Ham

If everything goes as planned for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, there will soon be a senior living community in Blowing Rock.

According to Vicki Stevens, the Director of Marketing for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, an agreement for a partnership between ARHS and Liberty Senior Living has been reached to develop a senior living campus on the 68-acre tract of land at Chestnut Ridge in Blowing Rock.

Liberty Senior Living is based in Wilmington and prides itself on being a family-owned and operated company. Liberty Senior Living currently has five senior living campuses operating in North Carolina, one in South Carolina, and two others currently being developed in North Carolina.

Chestnut Ridge is where the Foley Center is located, another ARHS facility for post-acute treatment for patients “healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital but not quite ready to safely return home.” Chestnut Ridge is also home to the Harriet and Charles Davant, Jr. Medical Clinic and Boone Drug’s Village Pharmacy. Adding a senior living campus here just makes sense for ARHS and is one reason why they have been trying to acquire a partner to make this happen for almost a decade.

“We have a contract and are awaiting just a few regulatory approvals. In the meantime, Liberty is consulting on the operation of the Foley Center and developing a milestone-based approach toward building the retirement facility. Eventually, the Foley Center and the retirement facility will operate together seamlessly as a full continuum of care,” said Chuck Mantooth, the President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

When the Chestnut Ridge complex came together in 2012, the original plan was to develop a senior living campus there, according to ARHS. That was a big reason for the 68-acre purchase.

“Our concept was to develop a post-acute care facility in phase one and partner with another company to build a retirement village in phase two. This evolution is really the culmination of that original plan,” said Mantooth. “Throughout our contract discussions with Liberty, the synergies have been remarkable. Their roots are in rural areas. They understand seasonal, destination markets like ours – as they have developed communities in Pinehurst, Wilmington, Mount Pleasant, and more recently in Pisgah Valley near Asheville. All of the facilities they’ve constructed are awe-inspiring and the quality reviews they receive are first-class. Liberty had everything we were looking for in a partner.”

Stevens said that Liberty plans to conduct focus group meetings to understand more about what the community wants and needs for this senior living campus. 

“In 2009, former ARHS President and CEO Richard Sparks saw what is often referred to as the ‘silver tsunami’ on the horizon. Data during that period suggested that, on average, a wave of 10,000 ‘Baby Boomers’ would turn 65 every day and thus become Medicare-eligible. Sparks also recognized that the High Country was ill-prepared to meet the rapidly increasing healthcare needs of its aging population. In many cases, residents had to leave the mountain in order to find independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services,” said Stevens.