Camphill Ghent breaks ground

GHENT – Even as winter arrived in earnest over the last few weeks, construction continued on a hillside along Route 66 south of the Chatham village line, where workers there are laying the groundwork for Camphill Ghent, a new senior living community on the site of a former farm.

The work done so far is a prelude of what’s to come. John Baring, the head of the committee organizing the work for the non-profit organization, said in a recent interview, “We’ll be building like mad all next year.” 
Mr. Baring said Camphill Village in Copake started thinking about the project two years ago. The Copake Camphill, which began in 1961 and is one of 100 communities of its type in the North America, provides living facilities and a community for people with developmental disabilities and for Camphill staff members and their families. The local organization also operates a small residence in Hudson. Mr. Baring said that Camphill leaders realized that their residents stay with the organization for life and that older residents require new facilities better suited to their needs. Camphill wanted a place for its own retired employees to live too.

Camphill communities follow the philosophical and spiritual tenets of anthroposophy, developed Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and educator who lived from 1861 to 1925.

The 112-acre site in Ghent made sense for the project because it’s close to the services available in Chatham, including a market and pharmacy, and because of its relative proximity to hospitals in Hudson and Albany. Mr. Baring added that the committee also wanted the elder residents to live in a place where there are things to do.  
In 2009 the committee was awarded a state Health Care Efficiency and Affordability grant (HEAL) for $9.6 million. The grant, which come from both federal and state funds, stipulates that the project must be completed in two years. The total cost of Camphill Ghent project will be $20 million, and Mr. Baring said the Camphill organization is making up the balance, and may be signing a $5.1 million loan from First Niagara Bank this week. 
The committee hopes to complete the project in September or October of 2011, with residents moving in as of January 2012. The website for the project,, says the buildings will be LEED certified, meaning it will “employ environmentally sustainable construction and green technology.”

Camphill Ghent will have independent living facilities as well as full-time care units. Plans call for townhouses with apartments, 2 to 3 bedrooms, studio apartments and a facility with 29 rooms for people needing more care. There will be 18 assisted living beds that can be paid for by Medicaid. There will also be a community center, a cafe and a space for cultural events, according to a representative at the Camphill office. Overall, the project is intended to house around 100 residents, Mr. Baring said, but he said that only about 15-to-20% of the space will be used by people special needs. The committee hopes the rest of the living space will be used by seniors from the community who want to retire there, where there are other people around. 
“We’re doing something very different,” Mr. Baring said of the retirement community. He said that having a place like this, with the mix of communities and of residents with and without special needs is the first of its kind in the country.  
The website also says that 150 jobs will be “created or maintained to complete construction of Camphill Ghent, and after it’s built, the equivalent of 30 new full-time jobs will be created.”

The construction firm, Lecesse Construction, is based in Rochester, and Mr. Baring said the company is trying to involve local workers as much as possible. He also praised the support the project has received from the county, the Town of Ghent and the Village of Chatham.

The project recently hooked up to the village water system, and at the December village meeting Trustee George Grant praised the project, saying, “It’s going to sell and it’s going to be a big bump” economically for the village.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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