PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The first clues that Mirabella Portland is a different kind of retirement home are in the basement.
That's where 85-year-old Bob Ivey keeps his stash of madrone, koa and cherry chunks for woodworking projects. The retired CPA brought his lathes, sander, router, clamps, drill press and saws with him when he and his wife, Barbara, moved in shortly after the building opened two years ago.
The Mirabella management didn't just tolerate his hobby, it involved him in planning the woodshop layout during construction in Portland's South Waterfront District. Now he's teaching other residents to make decorative wooden bowls and other projects.
The shop is adjacent to the building's underground parking, where a lift system stacks four cars in the space of two. The system saves room and gives nod to the fact that residents don't often need cars. When they do, attendants retrieve them from the stacks.
Off to one side is a rack of colorful kayaks. Marketing director Adam Payn, in perfect deadpan, says Mirabella is thought to be the first retirement center in the country with resident kayak parking.
Along one wall is a rack for golf bags. It was one of the early projects of the group that uses the woodshop. They also made more than 100 bookends for the Mirabella Library on the ground floor, which features a gas fireplace, comfy chairs and 6,500 titles donated by residents. The volunteer organizer, Linda McCammon, was librarian at two elementary schools in the David Douglas School District in east Portland.
There's more — bicycle parking, art studio, auditorium, exercise gym and pool — and it represents a new frontier of retirement living. An estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 17 years and many of them, true to their generational nature, aren't about to shuffle off to the old folks' home.
For those with the health and energy — and the means — a more engaging type of retirement living is emerging.
Mirabella Portland is a striking example: 220 apartments in a 30-story salute to new urbanism and sustainability. The building, designed by the Portland architectural firm Ankrom Moisan, has won five design awards and is the world's first LEED-Platinum certified Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC.
Yet it retains the age-in-place assurance many older people are looking for. As age and circumstance dictate, residents can move from independent apartment, to assisted living, to a "memory care" Alzheimer's wing. Residents recovering from hip replacement surgery or a heart attack, for example, can rehab in a 44-bed skilled nursing unit on the second floor.
The arrangement and "strategic location" appealed to Ron and Muriel Mendonca, who were the second couple to move in when the building opened in 2010.
"Four years' worth of planning," says Ron Mendonca, a retired high school physics teacher and accountant. "We don't have any children, and we decided we'd better take care of ourselves."
It wasn't a decision made lightly. Moving into Mirabella or any other retirement community means giving up a home and decades of independence. Many seniors dread a slow fade from vibrancy.
"That's the biggest fear people have in leaving their home," Ron Mendonca says.
In their case, staying busy is medicine. Muriel Mendonca, a former elementary school teacher and hospital volunteer services coordinator, chairs the Programs and Social Activities Committee. The group puts on lectures, trips, recitals and other events, an average of 16 programs per month.
The building has a residents' council and 14 committees, and hums with the intellectual firepower brought to bear by the retired doctors, lawyers, artists, accountants and educators who live there.
Keeping up is a delightful challenge, resident Bruce Howard says as he pedals an exercise bike and reads a Spanish Civil War novel on his iPad.
"The other people here are very interesting, very stimulating," he says.
Howard jokes that he's "just a small town dermatologist" who's outranked by two other retired dermatologists he's met at Mirabella — one a former hospital department head, the other a former medical school professor.
He and his wife, Olga, moved to Oregon from Colorado to be closer to a son in Lake Oswego, and chose Mirabella over a retirement facility in McMinnville. "The pull was we've never lived in a large city before," he says.
Ivey, whose tools equip the woodshop, says he's become much more social than he was when living at home.
Mirabella Portland is owned by Pacific Retirement Services Inc., based in Medford. Paul Riepma, senior vice president, says the Portland project attracts "joiners and participators" who want to be connected to the energy of a city and don't want to live "out in the boondocks" where the only people they encounter are other seniors.
"It's kind of like going to a new high school together," he says. "The chemistry that the residents have built toward one another is driven by like-minded people traveling the road of life."
Pacific Retirement Services also owns Mirabella Seattle, Holladay Park Plaza in Portland's Lloyd District and seven other Continuing Care Retirement Communities.
The CCRC concept isn't new, but what sets Mirabella Portland apart are its green design features, dense urban setting, transportation link and affiliation with Oregon Health & Science University.
It's built on a reclaimed brownfield site, uses solar power to heat water, sends storm water through a green roof and bio-swales and reduces irrigation by using native plants in the landscaping, among other features.
It's part of the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area, and its neighbors include the Portland Aerial Tram and three other high-rise condo and apartment towers.
The Portland Streetcar runs past the front door, providing convenient rides to downtown shopping, galleries and shows. While most residents still have cars, many rarely use them and cite the streetcar as a favored feature.
Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Health and Healing is across the street, allowing easy access to doctor appointments. The center's pharmacy delivers prescriptions directly to Mirabella. Some residents take part in OHSU aging research projects.
Mirabella isn't cheap. Residents commonly pay an entrance fee that ranges from a minimum of $260,000 up to $600,000 or $700,000, depending on the size and style of apartment. The entrance fee is 90 percent returnable to residents' estates. Most residents sell their homes to come up with the entrance fee. In addition, residents pay a monthly fee of $3,500 to $4,200, plus $854 for a second person. The fee covers complimentary short-stay nursing care and discounted long-term care. It also covers utilities, housekeeping, parking, security and up to 30 meals per month per person in one of Mirabella's four restaurants.
Despite the cost, Mirabella will reach 95 percent occupancy by the end of January, and 300 prospective residents have paid $1,000 to get on the waiting list.
The urban renewal site that includes Mirabella is planned to eventually have 5,000 residents and 10,000 jobs, said Geraldene Moyle, senior project manager with the Portland Development Commission, which oversees the district. As the only retirement center planned, it diversifies the area, Moyle says.
"While it was under construction we'd get calls all the time," she says. "I'm not surprised it filled up quickly."
Paula Carder, a Portland State University gerontologist, says Mirabella is part of a national trend in retirement living.
"Transportation and activities," she says, "and close to health care."
The building's sustainability features appeal to seniors, she says.
"I think often times the focus on green living and recycling tends to be about younger people, but certainly older people can be seen as stewards," she says. "They want the world to be a better place for their children and grandchildren."
Riepma, the Pacific Retirement Services senior vice president, says Mirabella Portland is a highlight of his 33 years of building retirement communities.
"Of all my endeavors, this one turned out remarkably well," he says. "This is surely not my grandparents' old folks home."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press