‘A better choice’ is coming to Key Peninsula

‘A better choice’ is coming to Key Peninsula

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (right) and Eric Blegen, executive director of The Mustard Seed Project, were among the participants at a groundbreaking for the organization’s assisted-living and memory care community. Besides some honorary shoveling, Kilmer spoke to a crowd of about 100 about the importance of caring for older adults.

After seven years of planning, fund-raising, designing and studying, the Key Peninsula area of west Pierce County has about one year to go until it has its first assisted-living and memory care communities.

The long-anticipated arrival grew closer Oct. 23 with a ceremonial groundbreaking at the five-acre site where construction of the homes is expected to be complete in late 2022, according to The Mustard Seed Project, a non-profit organization that is spearheading the facility as part of its social services for older adults on the peninsula.

The multi-million dollar project is being funded by a $7.8 million Rural  Development Community Facilities loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $5.7 million from Pierce County, the state, private foundations and individual donors.

Like many other peninsula residents, Bill Roes looks forward to the day the homes open.

“When someone loses their spouse or caregiver, options evaporate and they’re forced to leave the Key Peninsula because there are no assisted-living options here,” said Roes, a physician in the area for three decades. “Now, that’s about to change” through Mustard Seed’s efforts, giving “us and our elders a better choice.”

Recent Census statistics place the peninsula’s population at approximately 17,000, and 43 percent of the residents are between the ages of 50 and 80-plus. Relatively low home prices in the rural area have attracted retirees over the years.

The Mustard Seed Project, whose office on 154th Avenue Court Northwest in Lakebay is across the street from the site of the new housing, has worked on the concept of the latter with the Green House Project, a national, Maryland-based non-profit that specializes in alternatives to traditional senior-care settings. The result will be a “longhouse” of three small homes, each with 10 private bedroom/studios. Each home will have its own entrance and a shared hearth, kitchen, and dining area. Two homes will provide assisted living, the third memory care. The surrounding grounds will include walking paths.

While Mustard Seed will own the property, the homes will be operated by Concepts in Community Living, which has other small, rural senior housing facilities in the Northwest—four in Washington. Another 13 are in Oregon, where the company’s headquarters are.

The Green House Project has gained national attention for the healthy environments of its eldercare communities, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they logged significantly lower infection and death rates than traditional nursing homes, according to Green House.

Design work on the Key Peninsula project, the first for Green House in western Washington and the second statewide, has involved Rice Fergus Miller Architects of Bremerton and Korsmo Construction of Tacoma. Korsmo also is the construction contractor.

More than 100 people attended the project’s groundbreaking ceremony in October, braving rainy weather to mark the occasion and listen to speakers. Among them were U. S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who spoke about the importance of caring for older adults, and Edie Morgan, Mustard Seed’s founder and first executive director. Refreshments for the crowd were provided by Gig Harbor Kiwanis, and musical entertainment was by the South Sound Strummers.

Besides housing, the Mustard Seed Project supports seniors on the peninsula with programs for transportation, information, health and wellness, and community education.