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Berenson Building

Hebrew Senior Life

Hebrew Senior Life approached DiMella Shaffer for a feasibility study and design work to reposition and upgrade their 40+ year old Berenson Building originally built to accommodate 384 SNF beds on six floors. As the largest building on the Roslindale campus and fully occupied with Chronic Care Hospital beds, any renovation work would be challenging. The full scope includes façade enhancement, window replacements, the addition of balconies, as well as electrical, mechanical and fire protection system upgrades and code compliance upgrades.

After an extensive feasibility study to transform the 450 feet long building into small house nursing units, the result provides 10 neighborhoods of 22-24 residents each on six floors. The first floor is designed to house two memory support households, a community common space with a library space, a hair salon, an activity room and a café adjacent to a newly landscaped courtyard. Each household is composed of a majority of single rooms with semi-private showers and bathrooms, a nourishment kitchen adjacent to a floor kitchen where meals are prepared, a living room and dining room, an activity room and a family room. Carefully considering the building shape and layout, spatial qualities and budget, the common spaces located predominantly on the North side are filled with natural light throughout the day and provide a variety of spaces for residents to socialize. New windows with lower sills allow for a better view of the Arnold Arboretum nearby. Residential looking materials are used for flooring, cabinetry, and kitchen. Soft colors with lively accents, indirect lighting and accessories add to the residential atmosphere. Art was carefully curated with the client development team. Contemporary landscape paintings, attached to the walls on sliding mountings, conceal the medical-gas boxes above the bed when they are not in use.

The design efforts and challenges included designing within the modular and repetitive concrete superstructure, the adaptation of bathrooms to universal design considerations, the creating of home-like spaces and aesthetics, and above all working carefully with nurses, staff and potential contractors to devise a phasing strategy to implement the work to minimize disruption to programs and residents.

Phase 1, the Deanna and Sidney Steve Wolk Family Pavilion, is now complete on the building 6th floor west. It is a Pilot project that tested the innovative approach to care and operation.