A rendering of The Vista, a planned 199-unit retirement community on the Christian Health Care Center’s campus in Wyckoff and Hawthorne. — Courtesy: CHCC/LAN Associates
By Joshua Burd
The slope of the hill, the wooded setting, the stone and timber construction.
For Doug Struyk, it all amounts to what he believes will be a “nice degree of very comfortable elegance” for the bucolic setting known as The Vista, a planned 199-unit retirement community in Wyckoff and Hawthorne. The Christian Health Care Center and its design team have developed their vision for the project over more than a decade, drawing inspiration from other similar properties while also taking cues from The Vista’s future residents.
“Thankfully, they’ve ended up being one and the same,” said Struyk, the organization’s CEO and president. “They’ve made some really good recommendations and choices.”
That vision will soon be taking shape at the Christian Health Care Center’s 78-acre campus on Sicomac Avenue, which already offers short-term rehabilitation, mental health services and other independent and assisted living options. The nonprofit organization, also known as CHCC, is marching toward the start of construction for The Vista and what will be the last major piece of its footprint within the two North Jersey municipalities.
And there is no doubting that CHCC and its lead architect on the project, LAN Associates, are eager to move forward. While the project received its main local approvals only three years ago, the plan is years in the making and is poised to capture the demand for modern, upscale housing options for senior citizens and retirees.
“We are pretty well finished as far as the footprint we can have here,” Struyk said. “But there just clearly continues to be a need for quality housing across various spectrums for seniors in Northern Jersey, as the population continues to gray and they want to stay in this area because it’s where they’ve lived their whole life, it’s where their children are, where their physicians are, where they worship … So it’s about finding ways to satisfy that.”
Through mid-October, CHCC had secured commitments for more than 100 of the for-sale apartments that are planned for The Vista, with many of those prospective residents now in the contract phase. And the organization recently broke ground at the base of its campus, across from Cedar Hill Avenue in Wyckoff, where crews are building a new entrance and access road that will ultimately lead to the new 22-acre community.
At full build-out, the property will offer 19 different floorplans and covered parking for each home. Plans also call for a pool, fitness and spa facilities and a permanent performing arts venue, plus a host of other amenities focused on wellness and social interaction.
For instance, LAN Associates President Kenneth Karle pointed to the three dining venues and the commons building that are planned for The Vista. The latter will have a wellness area where “you can be as involved or uninvolved as you want,” he said, “but you’re almost forced to interact and make friends — and it will be really good for your mental health.”
The property’s marketing team also notes that, even after the completion of The Vista, the campus will maintain close to 10 acres of untouched, wooded hillside property. That will ensure that residents can enjoy the views and the natural surroundings of the area while still living in Bergen County.
“That goes back to the concept of the name, ‘The Vista,’ ” said Julie Lee, CHCC’s senior vice president and chief marketing and development officer. “Wherever you are, because you are so high up, you are going to get this beautiful view of the Ramapo Mountains and the surrounding area, so that’s probably been a huge draw for a lot of our prospects and depositors.”
To that end, the project team sought to “bring nature indoors” with balconies and private outdoor spaces in each unit and design elements within the common spaces, Lee said, including large, cathedral-sized windows that bring in natural light and outdoor seating and dining areas.
CHCC was also mindful of the natural aesthetic when it moved to reduce the size of the project from 258 units to 199, Struyk said. Doing so allowed for a more efficient use of the site and a larger buffer between the campus and the adjacent properties.
The organization was also focused on efficiency when it tweaked the plans for The Vista’s access road, Struyk said. Previously, the property was accessible only through the road network in the middle of the existing campus, but the new road at Sicomac and Cedar Hill avenues will provide a far better option.
“It not only makes sense for The Vista as far as efficiency, but it also enhances access for the whole campus and does a lot to improve local traffic,” Struyk said, “which was a goal we had right from the start — to not only meet community need with this project, but to leave the neighborhood better than it was when we started.”
CHCC and LAN have had to contend with the fact that the property spans two towns and two counties, which has complicated and added time to the development process. But Karle said the project was worthwhile for a host of reasons, including the mission and the history of the client.
But he also believes The Vista could pave the way for additional opportunities in health care and senior living communities for his Midland Park-based firm. Already, LAN is working on two other projects with another firm on The Vista’s design team.
“It’s not a competitive nature,” Karle said. “It’s truly just a teaming nature … so I think there are synergies coming out of it and there’s more of this going on. So for me, it is a growth area.”
As for the Christian Health Care Center’s next move, Struyk said the organization would be eager to consider additional projects like The Vista, given the demand in North Jersey. There’s just one major hurdle: Land is scarce and at a premium.
The organization over the past two years has expanded its footprint by acquiring two affordable senior housing communities in Wayne, which total 414 units. Its integration with the two properties “has gone really well,” Struyk said, adding that CHCC is now focused on ramping up activity at The Vista, “but we continue to keep our eyes open and tentacles out in different areas” for opportunities that may bear fruit in the future.
In the meantime, Lee noted that maintaining and updating the organization’s existing footprint is “always what’s next for us,” given the changing needs of its population and the need to prepare for the next generation of residents. That has included upgrades at CHCC’s recently acquired properties in Wayne, along with a new 14,000-square-foot gym and wellness center and other renovations at its main campus in Wyckoff that have been ongoing in recent years.
“What was very beautiful and trendy when we first opened some of our communities may look a little outdated,” Lee said, “so it’s always part of our mission to make sure that we are as contemporary and meeting the aesthetic needs, but also the practical needs, of our residents as they continue to age in one of our residences.”