SOUTH BEND -- The heavy machinery that is moving dirt around the former North Village Mall site in South Bend is preparing the property for a $14 million skilled nursing and assisted living center.
A two-story, 66,560-square-foot center, which will be called Wellbrooke of South Bend, will soon be under construction on Indiana 933 near Darden Road. A July 2014 opening is planned.
Mainstreet Property Group is constructing the center for its business partner Life Care Services, based in Des Moines, Iowa. Life Care Services will operate and manage the facility.
Mainstreet also developed a Mishawaka senior center in the Elm Road Medical Complex for the Ohio-based Sprenger Health Care Systems. Sprenger opened the Mishawaka facility and started accepting patients in January.
Area residents saw the former North Village Mall demolished in 2010. The property has remained vacant since that time. The large sign that lists former tenants is the only reminder the mall was located there.
Mike Dobson, a partner with South Bend-property owner Diversified Real Estate, initially marketed the six-acre site for potential retail, restaurant and office uses. But Dobson said he was unable to secure an anchor tenant for that type of development.
In February, Dobson announced the plan to build a senior center instead.
"We're not disappointed," he said earlier this year. "This is the right thing for the property and the corridor."
Area seniors won't be disappointed either, said Ann Dashiell, Wellbrooke assisted living and health center occupancy director.
Wellbrooke will contain 70 skilled nursing rooms on the building's first floor, and 30 assisted living residences as well as themed dining areas will be on the second floor.
The majority of rooms will be private rehab suites.
"The company studied what seniors are looking for, and what they're not looking for are what has been the traditional nursing home and the lack of options," Dashiell said. "Seniors are looking for a beautiful environment, and our focus is hospitality and customer services."
The senior health care center also will contain a game and theater room, wellness center with a spa and physical rehabilitation area, cafe with access, and exterior courtyards with recreation and rehabilitation activities.
"The bar has been low in the past and we've elevated it to another level," Dashiell said. "We have chefs on site; I've never had food like this and the question is, why not? The answer is because it hasn't been the industry standard."
Wellbrooke will open a sales office in South Bend early next year, at which time more information will be available about rooms.
Life Care Services currently manages more than 100 senior communities across the country. The company partnered with Mainstreet to develop not only the South Bend center, but also five other Wellbrooke assisted living and skilled nursing centers in Indiana.
The other Wellbrooke senior centers are located in Westfield, Avon, Wabash, Crawfordsville and Kokomo.
"The (South Bend) site has the perfect blend of factors, including population demographics, proximity to major health care facilities and a strong visible presence on a major thoroughfare," said Katie Snedeker, a spokeswoman for Mainstreet Property Services.
While Mainstreet does not have any other active plans for South Bend development, it continues to monitor the area market, she said.
"This facility meets not only demand from a patient standpoint," Snedeker said, "but also for the adult children and families that visit their loved ones."