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Summerville is under new management

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

One of the Carson Valley’s newest assisted care living facilities for seniors – Summerville at Virginia Creek – is under new management as of Sunday.

Residents and their family members received written notification dated Friday, Oct. 13, that “Merrill Gardens Inc., a national leader in senior housing, will assume responsibility for the operation of Summerville at Virginia Creek.”

Previous management of the $15 million, 50,000-square-foot retirement complex was Summerville Senior Living, according to Larry Caldwell, Summerville at Virginia Creek environmental service director.

Summerville at Virginia Creek offers graduated living options with 49 independent living apartments, 30 assisted living apartments and a 24-unit Alzheimer’s wing, Summerbrook. The facility opened July 1, 1999, at 1565-B Virginia Ranch Road in Gardnerville.

“Please be assured that we are doing our utmost to make this transition as smooth as possible, with no disruption in the care and services you or your loved one receives,” the memo said.

The Oct. 13 memo is signed by Granger Cobb, president and chief executive officer of Summerville Senior Living, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., and Bill Pettit, CEO of Merrill Gardens, headquartered in Seattle.

n Developers heard nothing. Builder and designer Greg Painter, his wife Holly and Reno-based senior care facility developer Phil Shapiro were instrumental in bringing Summerville at Virginia Creek to the Carson Valley, but their current involvement is up in the air since Summerville was removed by the Health Care REIT (real estate investment trust) that initially financed the project, Painter said.

“Ever since Summerville came on board, we’ve had zero control over what they were able to do,” he said. “We have not been officially contacted about any of this.”

Painter said that Summerville had two functions at the Gardnerville facility – management and holder of the lease.

“They’ve been in default of the lease by missing payments, and the REIT is just protecting their interests by booting them out,” he said. “The silver lining to all this, whatever the outcome, is that for us personally, we are pleased that we were able to bring Virginia Creek to the Carson Valley. It will never go away.”

Painter’s parents, Jim and Peggy Painter, formerly of Woodland Hills, Calif., reside in Summerville at Virginia Creek’s independent living wing.

“The hope and expectation we have is that Merrill Gardens will be sensitive enough to be tied more to the people of the Carson Valley, who ultimately support the project,” he said.

n About the new managers. Merrill Gardens is a branch of the century-old R.D. Merrill Co. and was formed with eight employees in 1993 to build “a company that would provide the best in retirement community living,” according to company information.

Merrill Gardens now employs more than 1,000 people in 54 retirement communities in 13 states.

n Business as usual. Caldwell said that Summerville at Virginia Creek employees and residents were surprised to learn of the management changes.

“We didn’t know anything about it until Friday,” he said Monday. “We had meetings about it today (Monday) and got to ask questions, and it sounds like everything will stay the same. We actually hope to see some improvements … we’d like to see the hours of the kitchen expanded, for one.”

Employees of Summerville will retain their jobs, Caldwell said, and for now, rates for residents will remain the same until a future review.

The facility averages 60 percent occupancy, he said, with the assisted living wing the fullest and the independent and Alzheimer’s wings less occupied – in the 50 percent area.

Summerville at Virginia Creek manager John Gabor, who has been at the facility for two months, will remain in charge during the transition, Caldwell said. No Merrill Gardens personnel will be added to the staff, he added.

“It will be business as usual,” Caldwell said. “This is a fine facility and an excellent place to live. We take care of our residents – you can ask them.”

Anyone with questions about the management changes can call Susan Keena, community relations director, at 782-3100.