Complex puts focus on independent living

Affinity at Walla Walla, now under construction between Plaza Way and State Route 125, is seen by its developers as being one-of-a-kind for the area.

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A lone construction worker does work around a wall of windows Wednesday morning at the new senior living complex being built along Highway 12 near Plaza Shopping Center.

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WALLA WALLA -- A more than $10 million residential development for those 55 and older is taking shape along State Route 125 and may be ready for move-in as early as December, operators say.

Affinity at Walla Walla -- formerly known as Traditions at Walla Walla -- is a 120-unit complex of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments where an array of choices from food service to housekeeping will allow residents to build their own lifestyles.

This is one of seven such facilities planned from Seattle to Colorado by Spokane-based Inland Washington LLC, whose construction division is leading the building of the center next to Applebee's, said Sherry Vincent, regional supervisor for California-based FPI Management.

Vincent will oversee operations at Affinity when it opens, a milestone targeted for December. She was in town this week with Jennifer Belew, another FPI regional manager, to check on construction, attend a Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce networking event and begin spreading the word about the new homes.

She plans to begin the process of hiring staff at the beginning of August. Pre-leasing of the units is slated for September, she said.

With the framework largely in place on the 100,584-square-foot structure, windows and other work are under way at the development. Vincent said it is unlike any other in the area.

Where most developments of this size have had an assisted-living component, Affinity is an independent-living destination, she said.

It's intended to meet a growing demographic of people 55 and older with an array of choices for their homes. Apartments come with full kitchens, washers and dryers, Internet and cable.

Housekeeping services and catered meals can be added to the list of amenities, Vincent said. She said the operation will contract with local services to provide such options.

Additionally, the facility will have a theater and wellness center, a pub and lounge for events at the facility, an Internet caf© that serves Starbucks coffee and pastries, a craft room and library, a game room, walking trail, barbecue area and community garden.

"We're going to provide (residents) choices right there where they live," Vincent said. She said the central location next to Safeway and other shopping and services is another attraction. The operation will also likely offer carpooling and busing to major events for residents.

Rental rates will vary but have not yet been finalized, she said.

Vincent said the operation will be run with the help of about five employees: a community director, assistant manager, maintenance supervisor, housekeeper and possible part-time employee.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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