When the building first was constructed and tours offered, people lined up out the door and the project manager likened it to a “land-locked cruise ship.”
Twenty-five years later, this ship still is sailing.
The Fifth Avenue Retirement Center celebrates two-and-a-half decades of serving Sequim citizens this summer, with a special tea and activities slate for Thursday afternoon (see box).
Owner Bill Littlejohn, one of the original developers, and administrator Michelle Payton said the center has kept its doors open and remains successful because it’s locally owned and because of the longevity of much of the staff.
“People really care (here),” Littlejohn says.
“Bill is really available for the staff and residents,” Payton added.
The facility originally was a $3 million project started by a number of partners, including Dr. Robert Littlejohn and his wife, Nan, their son and daughter-in law Bill and Esther Littlejohn, and Stan Berman and his wife. The center featured studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments including living rooms and bathrooms.
The facility opened its doors with an open house on July 13, 1986, and saw an addition around 1989. It now boasts 71 units of sizes up to 748 square feet and includes a full-service dining room, beauty salon, transportation around town, art gallery and exercise program, among other amenities.
Though Sequim had plenty of nursing homes, there weren’t any facilities dedicated solely to independent living for seniors.
“It was … the first thing of its kind here,” Littlejohn said. “It’s different than a care facility. Here, people have a choice. They’re selling their home (and moving here).”
It was at that time project manager Beth McBride equated the center to a cruise ship.
“It’s still a great presence,” Littlejohn said.
The project was so successful that Littlejohn added The Lodge at Sherwood Village, a facility that features 60 apartments and another 20 cottages for senior living.
Looking toward another 25 years, Littlejohn said The Fifth Avenue could use some help from the housing market that would help seniors downsize, while Payton said she and the staff at The Fifth Avenue Retirement Center can stay viable by doing what they already try to do: provide great service.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.