A Lexington KY hotel to become a residence for independent seniors
A Lexington hotel on the north side of town will soon be converted into a 135-unit senior independent living center that will also include a memory care unit for people with dementia.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Board approved a zoning change and conditional use permit on May 5 for the Ramada by Wyndham at 2143 N. Broadway.
Plans call for the hotel to be converted into 110 independent living units and 25 memory care units.
There will be one bedroom, studios and some units that can be made into two bedrooms, Solvida Living Lexington officials said.
“We’re also going to have a transitional care unit for spouses of people who may have dementia,” said James Vogel, president and founder of Colorado’s Solvida Development Group. The company is redeveloping the 1968 hotel that was owned by companies associated with Leona Helmsley, a businesswoman and hotelier known for her outrageous behavior who was once dubbed “The Queen of Mean”.
The memory care unit will be built at the rear of the complex and will have its own fencing and security system. An outdoor swimming pool in the center of the complex will be removed to create a green inner courtyard for residents. This yard will have a nature area, outdoor musical instruments and an exercise area that will include balance equipment, Vogel said.
Plans include keeping a second pool outside the property for residents to use for therapy and water aerobics, Vogel said.
“Our core mission is to serve an underserved population,” Vogel said. Most senior housing is expensive and many middle-class retirees are shut out of the market.
By reusing and rehabilitating hotels, Solvida can reduce costs and make independent senior living affordable for middle-class seniors.
“Our construction costs are much lower than new construction costs,” Vogel said.
Links to the Helmsley family
Market research shows Lexington needs more memory care and independent living for mid-level seniors.
“We found this magnificent building with great bones,” Vogel said. “We also liked the area.
The hotel has an interesting history.
The hotel was purchased by the Helmsley family in 1979 and operated under their Harley Hotel brand. It is believed to be one of 10 hotels the Helmsley family owned and operated outside of New York City.
“We were told Leona Helmsley stayed there,” Vogel said. The hotel is close to many well-known Thoroughbred farms.
Helmsley, who was convicted of tax evasion, also served her prison sentence at Lexington Federal Medical Center, according to media reports. Helmsley took a private jet to Louisville and arrived through minimum security private prison in limo, according to a 1992 Los Angeles Times article. Helmsley died in 2007.
It is also close to the site of the former Joyland amusement park, which closed in 1963 after operating for more than 40 years. Mary Todd Elementary School was built on part of the site of the former amusement park.
Vogel said the history of the area and the building will be reflected in the decor and art.
Other amenities planned for Solvida Living Lexington include exercise, music and art rooms. There will be a private dining room available for residents to eat with visitors, he said.
“It will be a technologically advanced facility,” Vogel said.
Residents will be able to summon nurses via voice through a product similar to Amazon’s Alexa. This same technology can also be used to ask what the establishment is serving for dinner.
The technology will also help the facility monitor and prevent falls and urinary tract infections, which are common among older adults, Vogel said.
Solvida has an option to purchase the property. The sale will likely close within the next six to eight weeks, Vogel said. It still operates as a Ramada hotel.
The complex will employ approximately 60 people. The group will begin receiving applications in December.
Construction is expected to start in July. It will take between 14 and 16 months to complete, depending on supply chain issues, Vogel said.
The group hasn’t started taking requests for residents. This will likely happen in late winter or early spring 2023, he said. The information will be posted on the website at www.solvidadevelopment.com.