Shirley Meadows on track for full occupancy by year’s end

Chelmsford Housing Authority Executive Director Connie Donahue and on-site services coordinator Margaret Leighton — both members of the management team — chat in the Shaker Meadows lobby during a lull at a recent Open House.
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DEVENS – The senior housing development on Hospital Road that MassDevelopment rolled out a couple of years ago is now fully functional, partially occupied and filling up fast.

Construction that began in May 2019 was completed earlier this year.

The new community – aptly named Shirley Meadows — is housed in a single, three-story structure, set back at an an angle from the road and with through-way access to the heart of Devens as well as downtown Shirley. It is a handsome addition to the rural streetscape, surrounded by open space, with paved walking paths around the building and ample parking in back.

Situated on about 4 acres that was once the so-called Shirley housing section of the former Fort Devens, the site is within the town’s original borders and the municipal complex – police station, town offices, public library – and is within walking distance, on the opposite side of the road.

At the Hospital Road/Front Street intersection, a sidewalk – currently undergoing a major, grant-funded makeover – extends in both directions as far as the Ayer town line. At the in-town end, the sidewalk leads to Main Street, the train station and the Shirley Village business district.

According to Connie Donahue, executive director of the Chelmsford Housing Authority, which manages the property, the locale is a key part of the package. The area is “service rich” as well as conveniently situated, she said, making it ideal for residents — seniors 62 and over — to “age in place.”

She noted, for example, the proximity of health care providers, senior centers and social service agencies and medical facilities such as Nashoba Valley Medical Center.

Donahue’s assessment draws in part on experience with other senior housing communities in the C.H.A. management network, including Chelmsford, Westford and Harvard.

Shirley Meadows’ 58 apartments – 55 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom units –are rented at “affordable” rates based on income levels ranging from moderate (50% of area median) to low (30%.) Eight units are set aside for homeless or at-risk seniors, according to the application packet.

Donahue said the community generated healthy interest from the first and 17 units are already occupied, with a dozen move-ins expected by Oct. 1. The first resident moved in on July 29.

The moving-in process can be daunting in the COVID-19 era, she said, but the community follows all CDC guidelines to ensure the health and safety of its residents and visitors. Common areas are cleaned by an on-site maintenance department. Routine upkeep of individual units are the responsibility of the tenants, but housekeeping services can be accessed as needed.

With a list of applicants lined up, all 58 apartments in the building will likely be rented by the first of next year, Donahue said.

During an open house last week, Donahue and Christina Andersen, CHA’s director of property management and compliance, greeted scheduled guests and conducted tours. They said that 35 people had signed up for the open house, and all of them showed up.

Activity had subsided when a Nashoba Valley Voice reporter arrived. The lobby was empty except for the tour guides and Margaret Leighton, Shirley Meadows’ on-site services coordinator.

A big-screen TV displayed a scrolling video that roamed the building’s corridors, common spaces and apartment interiors. It was telling, but a walk-through was even better.

Anderson led the way along carpeted corridors with apartments on both sides, cream colored walls and a striped, tri-color carpet with a different dominant color on each level.

Given that the hallways look alike, the three color combinations identify which floor is which, Andersen said, a useful perk for residents with memory challenges.

There are two elevators, a common mail room/post-office box area and a laundry room on each floor.

The apartments are small, spare, ready for residents’ to furnish, with windows in each room and easy-care, wood-look floors. Bathrooms feature modern, low-rim showers with grab bars on both sides. Some apartments will be outfitted with walk-in shower units for handicapped residents, Andersen said.

The compact kitchen – identical in all units –opens to the living room. Closets have adjustable racks.

There’s also a spacious common room with glass doors leading to an enclosed outdoor deck with patio tables, chairs and umbrellas. Across the parking lot, raised garden beds await planting.

The common room has a fully-equipped kitchen and can be reserved for gatherings, Andersen said.

At one end of the large room, Diane Welch had a table set up with handouts, a raffle and gifts.

Welch is an account executive with Fallon’s Summit Elder Care, operating under the umbrella of a national program called PACE, which has a medical office/treatment room on the building’s first floor.

Without once referencing the detailed information packet on the table, Welch rattled off an array of services Fallon offers to participating residents, including medical care, counseling and referrals.

Support services such as in-home aides who can help with shopping and personal care, even ethnic cooking, make it possible for people who need “nursing home level” care to live at home, she said.

She said there are a host of medical and mental health offerings available to Fallon plan members age 55 and over, including adult day care, with five centers across the state. The closest is in Leominster.

The PACE office was one of the stops on Andersen’s building tour. When it’s furnished, and staffed, residents can get medical treatment there, she said, including injections.

For more information about Shirley Meadows, the number to call is 978-256-7425 to reach Christina Andersen.