Salem Heights: Stewardship is at the heart of it all

Salem Heights reception area
Salem Heights Retirement Center reception area.
Salem Heights exercise room
Amenities include a fully equipped exercise room.
Salem Heights archive wing
Environmentally controlled archive wing preserves the congregations's history.

How do you change one of Dayton’s landmark buildings—that’s been home to hundreds of religious sisters since the 1920s—into one of the most marketable retirement homes in the area?

The Sisters of the Precious Blood have done just that. They called on Miller-Valentine Group to help develop and implement a plan that would change their motherhouse into a welcoming home for seniors in the surrounding community. The sisters asked us to help them redesign the interior—converting the 99 dorm-style rooms into 51 apartments. They also needed up-to-date meeting rooms, a salon, an exercise room, a therapy room, a nurse’s office, administrative offices and other amenities that are important for today’s seniors.

The sisters wanted to prepare for the future. Good stewardship is very important to them. “We made the decision as a congregation that we would prepare apartments for our sisters who would probably fill the building for the next 5-7 years,” says Sr. Judy Kroeger who is the administrator at Salem Heights Retirement Center. “When we are no longer able to occupy all the apartments, they will be very, very marketable and we will be able to lease them.”

Already, many people have shown an interest in the idea, she says. “They like the concept of living here. We have a large dining room and we serve three meals a day. Residents have their own fully equipped kitchen in their own apartment. And, of course, to meet today’s needs, they also have computer and Wi-Fi capabilities.”

Sr. Judy likes the way things are going. “The Miller-Valentine team assigned to our project has been wonderful. When we began the project, we held a service, praying for the safety of the workers who would be on-site throughout the construction process. Many Miller-Valentine staff came to the service—although they certainly didn’t have to,” says Sr. Judy. “That’s the kind of thing that made everyone feel like we were working together.”

For now, the congregation wants to be sure that the motherhouse is comfortable for the sisters who will eventually come home to retire. Gradually, lay seniors will be welcome to share the space.

Renovating the building has been an interesting experience from the beginning. The archives on the first floor, where the sisters have dedicated an entire wing to preserving the congregation’s history, require special temperature and light-controlled rooms. The second floor is all living space. On the third floor we found murals on the walls where the original chapel had been and some areas still have beautiful arched windows that still have a chapel “look.”

“Throughout the project, we have been careful to be sensitive to the sisters’ concern about stewardship,” says Faith Sichman, Miller-Valentine Construction Project Manager, who worked closely with the sisters throughout the project. “We recycled or donated everything we could (such as doors) to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, and were able to improve their energy consumption with new equipment. We reused everything in the building that we could, and they were pleased to know that everything wasn’t just going into a landfill.”

The project was definitely challenging for the construction team because of the sisters living in the building during the renovation process. By dividing the project into four phases, the sisters could be comfortable and remain in the building without interruption to their daily routine. The onsite team of Tony Beach (Superintendent) and Derek Cummins (Assistant Construction Manager) communicated well with the residents and Building Committee throughout the phased construction process.

Three phases of the project are completed and the residents are now enjoying their new living space. The fourth and final phase of the project will be complete in September. It has been a good experience for everyone involved. “We remain respectful of the fact that we are in their space and are happy to accommodate their schedule,” says Faith. “Salem Heights is their home.”

Akers Packaging expansion—a challenge in logistics

Akers Packaging Middletown, Ohio facility
Akers Packaging expansion interior
Akers Packaging expansion in Middletown, Ohio.

It’s hard to believe that so much of the packaging we take for granted (boxes, cartons, mailers, and dozens more paper/cardboard products) comes from Akers Packaging Service Group that started out in Middletown, Ohio, in 1963. Now they operate 10 facilities in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. It’s one of the largest independent corrugated companies in the Midwest and a leading independent corrugated converter in the United States.

Miller-Valentine has just completed a 144,000-square-foot expansion at the company’s original site in Middletown. “Our design/build team planned the manufacturing and warehousing expansion on two sides of the building,” says Dave Settles, Miller-Valentine Construction Senior Project Manager. The project consists of a steel framed structure with metal stud exterior walls and exterior metal panels, and includes 16 additional dock doors, electric and plumbing, gas and air service. The new addition houses a new paper corrugator that is nearly 400 feet in length. The slab for the new machine is an 8" two-way reinforced slab with many pits for the various machine processes that include assembling the corrugated paper together, perforating, cutting, slicing and labeling to complete the boxes.

The new structure was designed to accommodate not only the new state-of-the-art equipment, but also equipment from the existing plant and a satellite plant. The addition was constructed on the south and east sides of the existing building, while all three shifts were in full operation.

The logistics involved were a challenge. Our on-site management team coordinated all structural foundations and utilities for the equipment and worked closely with the owner’s vendors. We moved mechanical ductwork, electrical, plumbing, air lines and pits. Pieces of machinery—located in the existing building—had to be relocated to the new building. It took 26-plus semi-loads of equipment being delivered, unloaded and assembled to construct the new corrugator.

It was a challenging operation for all concerned, but I think we all did a great job helping them complete the process. Akers Packaging Service prides itself on being “The Best Solutions Packaging Provider.” For Miller-Valentine Construction, it was good to be a part of Akers Packaging's continued growth.

New trends in the marketplace

Everything old is new again—at least when we look at one of today’s fastest growing segments of the Miller-Valentine construction business. Some of the most architecturally elegant and well-constructed buildings belong to religious groups that are looking for ways to use those buildings to meet the congregation’s needs—today. Their members are getting older and the community’s financial commitments have changed, so they are open to new ideas for utilizing the space they already have.

Chris Knueven

Some people call it “repurposing.” I think it is more focused than that. Religious orders need to repurpose their underutilized facilities to care for their congregations, but they also need to bring the apartments up to market rate, so they can attract lay seniors who may choose to retire there.

It’s an idea that’s being welcomed across the country. Our current project—Salem Heights Retirement Center—is a prototype for other retirement centers. We are also pursuing similar projects in other geographic markets.

The economy demands that we fine tune what we already have and make it productive and cost-efficient and we are optimistic about the future of this market segment.

It is an exciting challenge and Miller-Valentine is particularly well positioned to make that happen.

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