By Barbara Hummel-Rossi, 2018-2019 Board President
In fall of 2016, as the Fearrington Cares Board sat scrunched together in the meeting room, the Board formally recognized a problem that had been under discussion for some time – Fearrington Cares had outgrown its physical space. The Fearrington Cares building was constructed in 2005 with the generous contribution of R B Fitch. Since that time the services that Fearrington Cares provides have grown continuously and we have run out of space to adequately provide the current level of services and to expand services.
Creating a Building Taskforce
To systematically address the space problem, the Board created a Building Task Force. Board member Barbara Hummel-Rossi was asked to chair the task force. Barbara invited Board members David Lindeman and Cathy Burt to join her on the committee. David is a lawyer and was treasurer of Fearrington Cares at the time. Cathy, like Barbara, has research methodology and statistical expertise and is familiar with needs analysis methodology. Barbara also reached out to the community for volunteers to the committee and invited community members Beryl Sherman and Bruce Coleman to join the committee. Beryl has professional experience designing interiors of buildings for persons with handicaps and Bruce is an architect and former professor of architecture. Then Board President, Steve Stewart, and Fearrington Cares Executive Director, Karen Metzguer also attended Task Force meetings.
The Task Force began meeting in January 2017 and developed a plan of action. Its first activity was to conduct a thorough Needs Analysis. To this end, in-depth interviews and questionnaires were developed and the Fearrington Cares staff and Director responded to these. Previous reports prepared by Fearrington Cares on services provided and an intensive case study of use were examined.
Building Taskforce Report Identified Four Critical Space Problems
After several months of study, the Task Force concluded that there were four critical spaces problems:
- Storage Space. Fearrington Cares lends a variety of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes and there is inadequate space to store this equipment.
- Office Space. In addition to the reception office, there are two offices in the current building. The Executive Director/Nurse occupies one office and the Administrator occupies the other which she must share with the med pal nurse, the Medicare advisor, volunteers, and small groups.
- Clinic. The clinic space is too small to accommodate a reclining chair which is necessary for the foot clinic and certain nursing services.
- Meeting Room. The meeting room is too small for many meetings. People often are squeezed together around the table and it is difficult to do a presentation with audiovisual material. With only one meeting room, there often is competition for use of the room.
Additionally, the reception office can accommodate only one person and it is jammed with supplies and equipment. Further, the reception area can accommodate only one or two chairs and the one restroom is not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
The Task Force Report Was Presented to the Fearrington Cares Board, Which Supported the Findings
With the requirements of a larger meeting room and a second smaller meeting room, another office, more storage space, a larger clinic, a larger reception office and seating area, and an ADA-compliant restroom, Bruce Coleman drew initial architect plans for an expanded building. The Task Force worked with Bruce over several months as the architect plans were revised. The Fearrington Cares Board also provided input.
Hiring an Architect & Building Contractor
The Task Force recommended hiring an architect and the Board concurred. Bruce had provided incredibly important work, but he is not licensed in North Carolina and was working as a volunteer. Criteria were developed for the selection of an architectural firm and, after considerable investigation, Bizios Architect (now Grant Bizios Architecture) was hired in early 2018. Using our needs analysis data and our architect plans, as well as examining the site, Grant Bizios developed architect plans. These plans underwent a number of revisions based on site and soil conditions and Chatham County regulations. As architect plans became finalized, Grant Bizios recommended that we select and hire a contractor so that Grant Bizios could work with the contractor in finalizing such areas as the electrical, structural, mechanical and plumbing work. The Task Force developed criteria for the contractor, interviewed contractors, and recommended Jeff Hopper of Hopper Construction. The Board concurred and Hopper Construction was hired as the contractor for the project.
Negotiating a Revised Land Lease with the Fearrington Homeowners Association (FHA)
Fearrington Cares does not own the land on which its building sits; the land is owned by the Fearrington Homeowners Association (FHA) and Fearrington Cares leases the land from the FHA at a nominal charge. We had received verbal permission from the FHA to expand; however, written permission from FHA to build was necessary. We entered into a series of discussions with FHA and wrote a new lease agreement. Permission to build on additional FHA owned land was granted in early 2018.
Current Status of the Expansion & Construction
We could now meet with various Chatham County offices to get the necessary permissions to build. Jeff Hopper sent the final architectural plans to various subcontractors for estimates and the final drawings were completed. We received the final cost estimates in early 2019 and then worked with Grant Bizios and Hopper Construction to reduce the costs by substituting some materials and making some minor changes.
Under the final architectural plans, the existing building will undergo an extensive renovation and will house three offices, an expanded clinic, a conference room, a storage room, and an expanded reception office. The addition will have a large foyer/reception area with sitting, a multipurpose room, four ADA compliant bathrooms, a storage room, additional storage space, and a break room. There will be a small outdoor patio and seating area accessible from the rear of the foyer. The original building is 1,196 square feet and the renovated and expanded new building will be 3,108 square feet.