Sketch of planned facility to be built next to Schooner Estates on Stetson Road in Auburn. The 60-unit facility will specialize in memory care and assisted living. (Contributed image)

AUBURN — Schooner Estates plans to break ground this summer on a 60-unit facility estimated at $12 million next to its buildings on Stetson Road, raising its resident count from 180 to 225.

The new facility, with 66 beds, will specialize in memory care and assisted living while the current facility will shift to assisted living for residents with lower needs, John Orestis, the owner of Schooner with his wife, Barbra Crowley, said Tuesday.

“I just picture it as our opportunity to contribute to meeting the needs of the community of that age cohort in a very positive, state-of-the art way,” Orestis said. “We’ve been doing that at Schooner, but this just kicks it up another notch.”

The Auburn Planning Board unanimously approved the 47,606-square-foot project last week, though it still needs environmental and other approvals.

Tentatively named Schooner Memory Care, the building will sit at 190 Stetson Road but use the same entrance as the existing Schooner Estates at 200 Stetson Road. The two facilities will be connected by a walkway.

Orestis said Schooner Estates opened 30 years ago as a nursing home and assisted living facility and has added on as demand has grown. Crowley and Orestis, a former state legislator and Lewiston mayor, own senior facilities across the state including Russell Park Rehabilitation & Living Center in Lewiston. The couple bought Schooner Estates 11 years ago.

It currently has 103 independent living apartments, 24 assisted living units with higher levels of care, 16 traditional assisted living units and 10 studio apartments dedicated to memory care.

“It has everything except skilled nursing and Russell Park takes care of that,” he said.

Orestis has seen the need grow for the care of people with age-related dementia.

“A few years ago, we had that demand right within Schooner, so we took 10 units that were traditional assisted living and we converted them to a discreet unit of 10 for memory care. It wasn’t enough,” he said. “We can’t even take care of demand within our own campus, never mind in the community.”

This expansion will help address that. As some of the higher-needs residents move into the new building, some staff will move over with them, he said. “That will leave us with the opportunity at Schooner to repurpose some of the space back into traditional assisted living and some smaller studio apartments for independent living, which we only have two of and we have a lot of demand for that.”

Schooner Estates currently has 103 full-time equivalent employees. He anticipates hiring another 25 more.

Construction is expected to start in July. Orestis anticipates opening in the fall of 2019.

Auburn City Manager Peter Crichton said he was happy to see the project happening and pleased with how many people in the community will benefit.

He has toured Schooner Estates with Orestis.

“I know John from when I worked for the city of Lewiston years ago,” Crichton said. “The existing facility is wonderful. John kidded me, ‘Well, when you’re ready, you can come here.'”

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