Tockwotton builds toward new East Providence waterfront home


EAST PROVIDENCE — Work on the new Tockwotton healthcare facility on the East Providence waterfront continues at a brisk pace, just under three months from its targeted opening date of Dec. 15.

Tockwotton administrators recently led board members, local officials and the media on a tour of the construction, which is roughly 75 percent completed. The building is five stories, has 137,754-square feet and is built on six waterfront acres.  It was designed by DiMella Shaffer Associates of Boston and supervised by construction manager, Cutler Associates of Worcester. Approximately $7 million in materials were purchased from Rhode Island vendors.

The $53.2 million privately-financed senior care community is shifting its base from just across the Seekonk River in Providence to its new locale on Waterfront Drive in the city. Ground-breaking took place on June 24, 2011. The facility will feature state-of-the-art living and care concepts for over 150 residents. To date, the build has created over 600 construction jobs. When finished, some 40 permanent jobs are expected to be added at the facility.

"This is a huge step forward for the city. These aren't just additional jobs. They're well-paying jobs," said East Providence Planning Department Director Jeanne Boyle. "The last project of significance to be completed were the Ross Commons Condos on Roger Williams Avenue, but that was back in 2006. Tockwotton represents the next step. This is a huge project. Hopefully it sets the tone for what will happen in the south section of the waterfront going forward."

According to administrators, the new Tockwotton will feature a revolutionary household model of living for seniors in need of assisted living, memory-care or skilled nursing care.

“With this new model, we’re trying to bring the meaning of ‘home’ back to the seniors in our care,” said Tockwotton Executive Director Kevin McKay, who led the recent tour.

“Our residents will have their own room, their own bathroom, and will have access to a kitchen to eat when they’re hungry," Mr. McKay continued.  "There won’t be long corridors or nursing stations, instead we’re creating households within the building to return a sense of intimacy to the care setting.  As people age, we want them to maintain their dignity, privacy and independence. This new building will help us achieve that mission.

“In recent years, our ability to adapt to the changing needs of seniors has been constrained by the historic physical structure in which we reside. With a new site, we’ve been able to start from scratch and let needs dictate design. Our elders deserve care that adheres to a set of basic core values that respect choice, dignity, self-determination and purposeful living."

Privacy and community will be hallmarks of the new household-model. Each of the 156 residents will have their own apartment with a private bathroom, Wi-Fi, cable TV and telephone service.  Care will be coordinated and seamless, enabling residents to “age in place” without the trauma of having to move elsewhere to receive the services they need. In addition, the new community of care will enable couples to remain together while receiving different levels and types of support.

Mr. McKay said there is a waiting list to gain access to the facility. Each of the rooms costs $5,300 per month to rent, including primary care, meals, housekeeping, transportation along with the other amenities. There are several indoor and outdoor communal areas available for use. Among the highlights are exterior courtyards and an interior arts and entertainment/movie theater.

Four distinct, yet connected sections of the new community will provide the space needed to offer a broader range of services, and all of the modern amenities that residents and their families expect today:

An innovative nursing home design that will incorporate a household model where residents can maintain their life-long routines within small, autonomous “households.”

An assisted living residence with expanded common areas and modern amenities.

A transitional-support household will help those who aren't in need of 24-hour security, but need more care than assisted living.

A memory-support household will provide specialized care and therapeutic activities for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory impairments.

The new Tockwotton not only represents a new beginning for the healthcare organization, it's the latest component of the city's plan to further redevelop what it sees as valuable waterfront property.

"This section of the waterfront has kind of languished behind for the last several years. A big part of that, of course, was due to the economic downturn," Ms. Boyle said. "But now with Tockwotton almost complete and the recent purchase of the old Oyster House by the Madeira Restaurant people, the vision of what we had for this area is beginning to be followed."

In lieu of taxes,  Tockwotton has agreed to make a flat-rate payment to the city. It will also donate 1.7 acres of land across Waterfront Drive to the city. In addition to the Tockwotton project, the city has reached an agreement with a private firm to build an additional one-mile stretch of road to extend Water Street south. That project comes with a price tag in the neighborhood of $200 million and is expected to start some time in the near future.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.