An established mainstay of the St. Louis community, Friendship Village Sunset Hills recently completed the first steps of an ambitious and visionary master plan. The collaborative effort produced a multi-phased master plan that included a new campus circulation pattern, selective demolition of aging cottages, new cottage products, 78 new Independent Living villas, and a central community clubhouse.
Beginning with the circulation design, the team was challenged with devising a route that minimized the interruption to existing residents’ lives, as well as created the best network for future expansions. This was further complicated by the condemnation and realignment of existing public streets. Further challenges involved a complex topography that challenged the designers to design within a long, narrow site while minimizing the disturbance of natural areas and keeping earthwork costs low. Older, dated cottages were replaced by neighborhoods of modern duplexes that give the appearance of single family homes in keeping with the local vernacular.
Independent Living villas arranged in attractive three story buildings extend the resident population density deeper into the heart of the site; the existing IL units were on top of the hill and more segregated from the rest of the community. With parking underneath and a pedestrian bridge to the existing Independent Living buildings, residents are able to stay connected no matter the weather. A well-appointed clubhouse is provided as the community’s living room. Overlooking a welcoming courtyard and water feature, residents from across the entire campus can enjoy various activities, dining options, and socialization in one central space.
Great care was given to analyzing all aspects of the existing community. The key component to flexibility was created by locating one large kitchen, with service entry location sized for the full expansion, so that it was central to the entire campus. It was strategically situated so that additional dining venues, an easy connection to a future healthcare expansion and a new wellness center, could be seamlessly phased and built around this kitchen core, “like spokes off a wheel.”
Some of the other innovative aspects of the project include: LED lighting and digital signage throughout the project; key card entries for both common buildings and private apartments; and fresh air intake in every apartment, instead of a universal rooftop approach, that supported the goal to lower energy consumption for the campus.
As the articulation of the architectural design elements evolved, the team engaged the community marketing staff and resident board early to weigh in on architectural and interior design style and color palettes. An exterior materials mock-up allowed residents to respond to the color palette and materials prior to making final selections. Interior design presentations with the resident board resulted in a style approach that both compliments the architectural style direction and the personality of the new and existing residents. Then a collaborative estimating and value engineering process was utilized by the entire team to maintain the design style intent and features while delivering them to the community at the right budget.