Even though it has taken five long years to finally start building the long-time dream of what was once Chesterbrook Presbyterian Church, Jane Edmondson has chosen to look at the bright side of things.
"It's been a good exercise in patience," said Edmondson, Secretary of the Organizing Board for Chesterbrook Residences. "But I kind of consider this like childbirth — as soon as the baby is born you forget about all of the pain."
Construction of the mixed-income assisted living facility for seniors is slated to begin Feb.1st. An official groundbreaking will be held in approximately six weeks, long enough to build a road that will provide access to the site.
"We finally got the last of the building permits on Friday the 13th, which we thought was rather ironic," said Edmondson. "This project has had a lot of potholes along the way, but we're all very excited."
The idea for the facility was initially the vision of the members of Chesterbrook Presbyterian Church. Although the church congregation dissolved in February of 2001, its members asked the National Capital Presbytery to allow another congregation to occupy the building. Subsequently, the Chesterbrook Taiwanese Presbyterian Church moved into the location.
"At that time, the Presbytery also moved ahead with a feasibility study and development plans for the assisted living facility," said Rev. Gerald Hopkins, president of the Chesterbrook Residences, Inc. (CRI) Board of Directors.
CRI, which is developing the facility, is a non-profit and non-sectarian corporation created by three McLean religious congregations — Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, Immanuel Presbyterian Church and Temple Rodef Shalom. The 9-acre property is owned by the National Capital Presbytery and is being leased for 75 years to Chesterbrook Residences.
It turned out to be a somewhat bumpy road to the realization of the Presbytery's goal. At first it seemed that the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan would have to be changed in order to allow for more density at the site. Ultimately, this proved unnecessary.
"This was a contentious project," said Edmondson. "There was unfortunately a lot of citizen opposition, which we were really surprised about — because you're talking very low use of a site."
Approval for the project finally came in April of 2004, and a site plan was submitted in January of 2005, after months of dealing with stormwater management issues and other such development matters. Now construction will finally begin.
"This is the next concrete step in making a dream come true," said Rev. G. Wilson Gunn, General Presbyter of the National Capital Presbytery.
The $13.6 million facility has received financing from Fairfax County and the Virginia Housing Development Authority. It will feature 97 apartments, 49 of which will be set aside for residents who earn an annual income that is less than $31,000.
"We don't think we are going to have any problems filling the rooms because there is such a demand for affordable assisted living facilities," said Edmondson. "Even our market-rate units will be below what Sunrise [Assisted Living] units are going for."
Rev. Gunn says that the start of construction is "a significant milestone in a 5-year journey."
"When the assisted living facility is up and running, we know it will be filled to capacity, and the presbytery will have helped fulfill the hopes and dreams of those faithful Presbyterians who went before us," said Gunn. "We will also have helped provide a means for serving Fairfax County and the McLean area in particular for generations to come."