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Durham retirement community's vacancies fill up in 6 weeks ... 2 years before facility is expected to open

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

March 25. 2018 12:18AM
This is a rendering of what RiverWoods in Durham will look like when it is completed. (COURTESY)



DURHAM - All of the spots in a continuing care retirement community planned for Route 108 in Durham presold in just six weeks, according to officials at The RiverWoods Group.

RiverWoods Durham will sit on 11 acres of land near Stone Quarry Drive. Nearly 80 percent of the residents moving into the 150 apartments and 72-bed health care facility are from New Hampshire, Cathleen Toomey, vice president of marketing, said Thursday. Of that number, 20 percent are from Durham.

The RiverWoods Group is the parent company of RiverWoods Exeter and Birch Hill in Manchester. Toomey said the Durham campus is the culmination of co-founder Maryanna Hatch's dream to have a vibrant place to live and relax after retirement. The community is expected to open in early 2020.

Toomey said Hatch lived in Durham with her husband, who worked at the University of New Hampshire. Rosemary Coffin, of Exeter, was married to a man who worked at Phillips Exeter Academy. Both envisioned a campus style of retirement living with health care available on site and began working with a small group in the 1980s to make their ideas a reality.

"They said, 'Why do we have to lose our connections to the community when our husbands retire? Why don't we create a community for when we are older and may need help,'" Toomey said.

In 1994, the nonprofit broke ground for RiverWoods Exeter. On the Exeter campus, residents run the newspaper, television station and country store. They received services such as housekeeping, free transportation and one meal a day.

"You're surrounded by people your own age who have more free time, and they want to connect," Toomey said.

In Exeter, living options range from a 570-square-foot apartment to a 2,300-square-foot free- standing cottage with a two-car garage.

A 90 percent refundable one-time fee to get in is $188,000 for a studio apartment to $863,000 for a cottage with a two-car garage. Monthly fees range between $2,300 and $7,000. Residents must be at least 62 years old. As they age and need additional care - such as skilled nursing and memory support - RiverWoods provides it within the same campus. Toomey said there are about 1,900 continuing care retirement communities in the country.

Keith Robertson, managing director at Ziegler, a privately held investment bank, capital marketing and investment firm, said the popularity of RiverWoods in Durham was unusual.

"In my 22 years working with CCRCs, I have never witnessed such high demand for a community," Robertson said in a statement.

"Reaching 100 percent presales in six weeks is something I've never seen. Everything about this project is exciting, and it's thrilling to be a part of it."

Toomey said RiverWoods already has 30 people on a waiting list for the Durham campus.


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