Dignitaries cut ribbon for Tockwotton on the Waterfront in East Providence


EAST PROVIDENCE — Excitement has been building as commuters traverse the Washington Bridge each day and have watched a five-story, 137,754 square-foot, Nantucket style home take shape on six acres along the East Providence waterfront.


The anticipation climaxed as the community was welcomed to the official unveiling of Tockwotton on the Waterfront Friday, Feb. 15,, the first development in East Providence’s Waterfront District (south of I-195) and a unique new model of healthy living for seniors.  Tockwotton is a senior living community offering assisted living, memory care, short-term rehabilitation and long-term care.

United States Senator Jack Reed, United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Governor Lincoln Chafee, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, joined a host of local elected officials and more than 300 guests to celebrate this non-profit organization’s accomplishment and the dawn of a new era of care for seniors.

“Our organization has been in existence for 156 years, and building Tockwotton on the Waterfront has been an effort more than a decade in the making,” said Board President Susan Miller.  “We searched a long time for the perfect site and then tweaked our plans to take full advantage of the landscape to ensure that our residents would enjoy a beautiful view and be afforded a new level of independence, privacy and care.  We’re excited to be here, welcoming the community into our beautiful new home in East Providence.”

The $52.3 million project features a revolutionary household model of living for seniors in need of assisted living, memory-care, rehabilitation services or skilled nursing care that offers them independence and privacy while receiving best-in-class care.  What makes the new structure unique is that each resident has their own private apartment and lives within one of five “households” to ensure familiarity with a consistent group of neighbors and caregivers.  Food is prepared and served within that micro community to allow each resident to choose what they want to eat and when they want to eat it, just like at home.  Organized activities abound throughout the building, and residents also have access to a media room, outdoor dining, and a theater.

“Living here is a dream,” said assisted living resident Bunny Bronson.  “I’m so happy here.  There’s space to exercise, space to read, places to socialize, a great place for residents to put on their reader’s theater and we’re in such a great location, it will be wonderful for walks in the springtime.”

“With a long, distinguished history, Tockwotton has once again reinvented itself by responding to the needs of the families they serve and garnering support from the community at large,” said United States Senator Jack Reed.  “With today’s opening of Tockwotton on the Waterfront, this non-profit organization is setting a new, higher standard for elder care.”

"These new waterfront residences will help seniors live comfortably and maintain their independence," said United States. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  "This is a great addition to the ongoing development of East Providence's waterfront area, and I congratulate the Tockwotton community on their accomplishment."

“Rhode Island has one of the highest proportions of seniors of any state, and our population is aging and becoming more diverse at the same time,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee.  “Tockwotton’s new building will allow seniors to continue living the way that they prefer, with dignity and individualism, even though they may need some assistance. Additionally, I am pleased that this significant project has supported hundreds of good jobs in Rhode Island’s construction industry since breaking ground in 2011.”

“In an era where ‘culture change’ and ‘patient-centered care’ have become popular buzzwords in healthcare management , the non-profit Tockwotton on the Waterfront is taking a final step to complete its seven-year mission to embrace culture change and put those words into action,” said Lieutenant Governor Roberts, Chair of the RI Healthcare Reform Commission.

The Evolution of Care at Tockwotton on the Waterfront

Intrigued about adopting a household model of care, officials from Tockwotton headed to Meadowlark Hills in Kansas in 2005 to explore how that organization had implemented this practice of self-organized work teams.  With guidance from these experienced peers and the support of the board, the staff undertook the culture change initiative, beginning with the nursing home staff in 2008 and adding the assisted living staff two years later.  The basic premise of the self-organized work teams is that the resident sets the terms of how they would like to live their life, and with help from their direct care staff, are assured that their wishes are implemented.  Administration simply serves as a resource to the direct care staff.

While the concept appears to be simple, it’s a significant switch from the hospital model that’s been in place for decades where the nurses and doctors implemented what they thought was best for the residents.  This institutional model meant that meals were served at a specific time, lights were out two hours later and bathing/changing happened when it was most convenient for the nursing staff.

Under the new, household model of care, the residents determine how they’d like to live each day.  If they have ambulatory problems and want to go on walks, the risks are explained but they are not prevented from taking walks.  If they want to sleep in and not take breakfast, they can skip the meal.  If they’d like an extra dollop of whipped cream on their waffles, they can have it.  It’s the little choices -- and often even just the knowledge that you have the ability to make those choices -- that help seniors retain their quality of life.  Self determination is reinstated as a personal right for residents.

From an employee’s perspective, the changes mean that staff no longer adheres strictly to a specific job description.  If a nurse is asked to change a bed or help prepare a meal, than that becomes part of his/her job description that day.  Employees help out (as families work together and help each other out) on a regular basis and all direct care team members become equal.  Traditional hierarchies have disappeared because a dietary aide and a housekeeper’s opinions are held in equal regard with an RN on the care team.

“With the adoption of the self-organized workplace now 100 percent complete, the results at Tockwotton have been truly remarkable,” observed Executive Director Kevin McKay.  “In fact, residents and staff alike are happier and no employees have left because of their modified job description.  Tockwotton on the Waterfront represents a $52.3 million commitment to culture change by our board of directors.”

“What a household model of living meant from an architectural perspective was a challenge to design intimate spaces, to provide private apartments with private baths, and to create a visual sense of community,” said architect Diane Miller Dooley of DiMella Shaffer Associates.  “You will see no signs of institutional care such as commercial kitchens or nursing stations in this building.”

Tockwotton on the Waterfront as an Economic Driver

More than 600 construction workers, employed by 30 subcontractors, have spent $7 million with local vendors to complete Tockwotton on the Waterfront since ground was broken in July 2011.

“We had some real challenges with this site.  Working on a hillside and bearing through two hurricanes put our team through the test, but we were pleased to finish the project on time, on budget, and to the delight of our customer,” said Garth Johnson, Director of Cutler Associates’ Senior Living Division. “It’s been a thrill to see the reaction of the residents as they discover the beauty and amenities of their new community.”

“By choosing to invest in the future, Tockwotton has transformed their operation into a national model for the best in total patient care while growing our local economy through the creation of 50 permanent jobs,” said Treasurer Raimondo.

As the first building along the East Providence Waterfront, City of East Providence Planner Jeanne Boyle hopes that this will become the catalyst for additional development in the months to come.

“Village on the Waterfront, a 600-unit, mixed-use development to the south of Tockwotton, is under construction and just to the north of Tockwotton, a local businessman recently started renovating the historic Oyster House restaurant into a mixed restaurant, banquet facility, marina and waterfront apartment development," Ms. Boyle said.

“Tockwotton will be making a payment in lieu of taxes and donating 1.3 acres to the City of East Providence,” said Mayor James A. Briden.  “The non-profit’s donation will extend public access to Narragansett Bay.”

Work began in the fall, planting native species and creating a coast buffer along the waterfront to stem asphalt runoff and erosion under the supervision of Gates Leighton  & Associates.  Dedication of this new, pedestrian-friendly park, donated by Tockwotton, is expected to transpire this spring.

Features of Tockwotton on the Waterfront

Tockwotton on the Waterfront is comprised of 156 private apartments with private bathrooms.  The building offers wireless access, cable TV and telephone service.  In addition, Tockwotton on the Waterfront offers:

Sculler’s Pub

Country store


Full service salon


Theater room

Fitness center

Media room

Gardens, decks and walking paths

Al fresco dining available on the outdoor terrace

Care is coordinated and seamless, enabling residents to “age in place” without the trauma of having to move elsewhere to receive the services they need as they age.  In addition, the new community of care will enable couples to remain together while receiving different levels and types of support.  Services include:

Assisted living;

Memory care;

Short-term rehabilitation; and

Skilled nursing care.

Common spaces abound throughout the building.  Families and assisted living residents can access a coffee shop, media room, pub, theater, community rooms and meditation space.

Financing the New Tockwotton Community

Construction of Tockwotton on the Waterfront was financed through three vehicles: tax–exempt bonds, owner’s equity and charitable contributions.  The board of Tockwotton secured $42 million through non-rated, tax-exempt bonds from the Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corporation.  The board earmarked approximately $5.3 million from existing investments and the remaining $5 million is being raised through a capital campaign to which the Champlin Foundation has been a lead contributor.  Fundraising for this first phase is 90 percent complete.

Remembering Tockwotton’s Resident Spokeswoman Evelyn Katzman

Evelyn Katzman, a nine-year resident of Tockwotton Home, joined local and state elected officials in June 2011 to break the ground for Tockwotton on the Waterfront.  That day, the (then) 103-year-old Katzman was thrilled about the prospect of moving into a brand new home.  “She loved change and always looked on the positive side of things,” said her niece, Paula Katzman.  “Last year, she stepped forward to sign the last steel support of this building as it was lifted into place.  Nippy January temperatures didn’t deter her.”

On Jan. 12 of this year, Mrs. Katzman beamed as she was welcomed into her new home.  She was looking forward to participating in today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony; however, she died in her sleep on January 29 at age 105, just three weeks prior to completing her duties as the resident spokeswoman for this construction project.  Consequently, her niece, Paula Katzman, was asked to represent the family in today’s ceremonial ribbon cutting.


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