Crystal Brook Senior Living Community literally rolls out a red carpet for its new residents.

Hundreds toured the 138,000-square-foot facility Wednesday during its grand opening.

"We're thankful to be a partner in Park Rapids to offer this senior housing," said Knute Nelson CEO Mark R. Anderson in his opening remarks.

The newest "aging in place" model for senior housing welcomed its first clients on Nov. 15. So far, 30 people have moved into 34 apartments, Anderson said. There are a total of 69 independent/assisted living apartments and 19 memory care assisted living units.

A "town center" - complete with dining hall, community meeting room, fitness center and card/club room - is the central focus of the building. Other amenities are an outdoor terrace, walking paths, resident storage, hair salon, spa, activity room and underground parking. Knute Nelson's home health care office is also located at Crystal Brook.

"At Knute Nelson's ministry of care for aging adults, we share experiences of lives being enriched every day with meaningful socialization and engagement opportunities, lifestyle amenities that foster special interests and compassionate care tendered by dedicated caregivers," said Anderson. "Crystal Brook represents active senior living with a cornerstone based on innovative approaches and providing excellent care, right here in Park Rapids."

A community partnership

Anderson thanked the Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission (HCREDC), Itasca-Mantrap Co-op Electric Association board of directors, City of Park Rapids, Todd Township and Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce, among others, for their project assistance.

"We have a strong desire to be a great community partner," he concluded. "Thank you, the community of Park Rapids, for your partnership with us. We look forward to great successes together in this awesome community."

Calvary Lutheran pastor Justin Fenger gave a blessing.

Mike Monsrud, chair of the HCREDC and CEO of Itasca-Mantrap, said his two organizations facilitated a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help finance Knute Nelson's purchase of the 35-acre parcel and construction of the building. The $1.36 million loan is at 0 percent interest for 10 years, he noted.

The complex provides approximately 40 new jobs, Monsrud said, and, as seniors move into Crystal Brook, it will also open up housing for families moving into Hubbard County.

Crystal Brook's administrator is Ashley Ylitalo, a 2004 Menahga High School graduate. He holds a bachelor's degree from St. Cloud State University in public administration, with an emphasis in healthcare administration. His prior experience includes nine years of administrator experience for two senior care providers in Minnesota.

"Today, we're changing the paradigm of aging by expanding healthcare choices for aging adults and their living experience. We're proud to offer a full continuum of care and housing choices in environments that really embrace active living in innovative approaches to excellent clinical care. We recognize the importance of aging with vitality by offering opportunities for socialization and exercise combined with the ability to foster special interests, maintain dignity and strong community ties," Ylitalo said.

Founded in 1948, Knute Nelson is a 501(c)(3) non profit, faith-based corporation based in Alexandria. It's named after its founder, Sen. Knute Nelson, who donated his home and land to care for 10 aging adults.

Comforts of home

The vision for Crystal Brook began to unfold about four years when Knute Nelson Home Care in Park Rapids recognized a need for more senior housing, explained Katie Perry, chief development and strategy officer. That's when discussion began about site selection, city annexation, tax increment financing, loans

Knute Nelson broke ground on June 2017, with the $18 million construction project wrapping up at the end of October 2018.

Geared for those 55 and older, Crystal Brook's "aging in place," or hybrid model of senior housing, allows residents to remain in their apartments and increase services as needed.

"Couples are welcome. Pets are welcome," Perry said. "This is a residence home, so we really want to make the comforts of home."

A complimentary breakfast is prepared each morning.

Crystal Brook offers a month-to-month residency agreement. There is a variety of housing plans, Perry said, with one-bedroom to two-bedroom apartments ranging from 681 to 1,300 square feet in size. All the floor plans are named after local lakes and towns. The "pristine beauty of the Northwoods" influenced the design, Perry said.

To welcome new residents, Perry said staff truly rolls out a red carpet. "We really want to understand who they are, their likes and interests, where they thrive in life and where we can work together with them to continue meaningful activities."

Perry anticipates the 40 new employees to include care attendance, nurses, culinary staff, maintenance and administration.

Perry said locals and organizations are welcome to use Crystal Brook's community room to host meetings or events. Catering services are available.

Carefree living

Gail Manlove, 83, reserved her Crystal Brook apartment last November.

For 58 years she lived in the Hubbard home that she and her husband, Paul, built by hand. Paul passed away 14 years ago.

"I am tired of being a homeowner, as a single person trying to stay on top of the yard work, trimming, repairs," she said. "I just like this carefree feeling of living here."

Gail calculated the expenses of living in her home - insurance, liability, electricity, phone, cable, maintenance and property taxes - and realized that a one-bedroom at Crystal Brook was reasonable.

She spent the past year sorting through her possessions, giving them away, selling some and storing others. Her home sold quickly - before it had even been advertised.

"Not only that, I feel I'm sparing my kids," she said of the "tall order" to sell a home and divide up property. "Now I've done a lot of that."

Gail said she particularly enjoys visiting with other Crystal Brook residents during the complimentary breakfast. "You know, I've been living alone for a really long time and it's really nice to see familiar faces and enjoy their company," she said.

To stay in shape, she walks regularly. A bus transports her to Sunday services at Hubbard United Methodist Church.

"I've made up my mind that everybody should move at least every 58 years," she joked.