Independent living community in Harvard targets January opening

After more than a year of renovations, the owners of Shepherd Premier Senior Living of Harvard, 210 E. Front St., tentatively are preparing to open their doors Jan. 10.

Built in 1866, the building is one of Harvard’s oldest, and it served as the city’s original hospital. It later became a church, movie house, opera house and nursing home before it served as the Harvard Retirement Home for 34 years.

In 2017, owners Bill and Kathy Schack decided to shutter the home to retire, and the property was acquired by Steve and Theresa Maskrey, who also own residential dwellings in Ringwood, Crystal Lake and Bull Valley.

Brandon Schwab, the Maskreys’ business partner in the project, said a $125,000 budget was set when renovations first began, but as walls were opened, problem after problem emerged.

“We ended up having to replace the power throughout the whole building,” Schwab said. “We’re at about $425,000 right now.”

However, Theresa Maskrey said she is proud to do the renovation without cutting any corners.

“If it cost more to do it right, we did it right,” she said. “We’re really mindful of the fact that this needs to be the safest, most wonderful living arrangement that we can provide for a senior.”

The building has 14 bedrooms. Lease agreements will include food, laundry and housekeeping services. Theresa Maskrey said she would like to offer discounts for veterans.

New heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment – along with plumbing, wiring and drywall – was required for the space, but Theresa Maskrey said it was important to be faithful to the history of the building.

Ideally, she said, she would like to display old photos or items symbolizing the building’s long history with the community.

One technique Schwab and the Maskreys tried to make the space feel like a home to its residents is streetscaping, a design method that incorporates visual elements of a street, including the road, adjoining buildings, sidewalks, street furniture and trees.

For example, a shingled roof protrudes over the doorway to each room.

Theresa Maskrey said it is important to make residents feel like they are not just being “warehoused.”

The building is awaiting an occupancy permit and fire and kitchen inspections.

“It cost a lot more than we thought, but we’ve never doubted if we should be here, if this was the right thing to do or if this would be a wonderful home for seniors someday,” Theresa Maskrey said. “That’s been good motivation for us.”

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