Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Nursing Home Could Expand

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Nursing Home Could Expand

Article excerpt

What will Sarasota's oldest nursing home do with the eight acres it just bought from a cement company?

Try to anticipate and meet future community needs while ensuring its own survival, said John Overton, chief executive of Pines of Sarasota.

Leaders of the 65-year-old skilled nursing center -- which started as a civic project called the Kiwanis Welfare Home -- plan an open-ended series of focus groups to get citizen input on the "ultimate best use" of its $1.9 million investment.

Overton said Friday the recent land purchase will, at the least, help the Pines determine what becomes of its own neighborhood. But the board's ambition is to go beyond that, with a state-of-the-art "community asset" that will redefine senior living in the coming decades -- as traditional funding for nursing homes dwindles and new ways of caring for frail elders emerge.

The Pines board sees in the potential expansion a chance to return to its roots as an enterprise that involved locals of all ages, from Boy Scouts to women's clubs. At the same time, whatever rises on the site will need to be a steady funding source for the 204-bed, not-for-profit nursing home, which has sustained cuts of roughly 20 percent in state and federal reimbursements over the past two years alone. In the next three to six months, Overton said, the former industrial space south of the Pines campus will be cleaned up and landscaped, with sidewalks and fencing. But there is no timeline for the deliberations on what will eventually be there -- a new model for affordable elder housing, a research institute, a home health operations hub, or something else.

"We don't want to rush anything," said Pines board chairman George Manser. "I wouldn't be concerned if it takes us three to five years to get the entire thing laid out. I think it's more important that we do this right. A lot of it will depend on exactly what input we get."

This outreach effort will intentionally echo the origins of what became the Pines. …

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