Words: Dave Jackson, Senior Brand Manager, Dry Mix + Commercial Masonry & Hardscapes, Oldcastle APG, a CRH Company.
Photos: Echelon Masonry
The much-anticipated Presbyterian Village Athens welcomed its first residents in February 2021. Through economic downturns and unpredictable hurdles, key staff members at the nonprofit Presbyterian Homes of Georgia never gave up on their enduring vision of a holistic “life plan community” to serve retirees in the area. The village center anchors the 70-acre complex, and its surrounding grounds include 115 cottages, 12 villas, and 100 apartment homes with miles of embedded walking trails.
Community amenities include a fitness center, tennis and pickleball courts, an indoor saltwater pool, a pub, a billiards room, a salon, and multiple dining venues. Residents enjoying this active and vibrant lifestyle have the peace of mind knowing that assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing services are available on the premises. From its early inception, the PHG mission aspired to balance comfort, connection, and care for its senior residents.
Located just up the road from the retirement village is the University of Georgia, founded in 1785 and widely regarded as the heart of Athens, an eclectic town known for its Victorian architecture, innovative music scene, art galleries, and distinctive dining. With nearly 40,000 students populating its campus, UGA has continued to rank as Athens’ top employer while imprinting an enduring cultural influence on the area.
Batson Associates, a Greenville, South Carolina-based firm, was chosen to create the desired aesthetic for the senior living community. For lead architect Trevor Ream and his team, the Presbyterian Village Athens partnership spanned 6-years and began with approximately a year and a half of intense planning and design. Since all components of the project would be constructed simultaneously, he and his colleagues worked on the comprehensive plans to ensure that all specifications were in place once contractors broke ground.
To meld with its distinct surroundings, decision-makers at Presbyterian Homes wanted the appearance of the various structures to complement the traditional red brick that dominates the UGA campus while blending into the rural outskirts of Athens. Ream spoke about his team’s approach to striking the right balance to meet his clients’ vision.
“To create the desired collegiate look with a rustic edge, we needed a combination of materials,” Ream noted. “The scale of the project required that we break it down to ensure a residential aesthetic. The dormer windows for the village center helped with that, as well as the stone base with brick on top. For the base, we needed a time-saving, cost-effective, and consistent product. I contacted Tod Cox, Architectural Masonry Consultant, Oldcastle APG, and he suggested Echelon’s Waterford Stone, a locally manufactured product that offered a wide color range and a refined ashlar pattern that would blend well with the brick.”
Because of its structural veneer, Waterford Stone® was installed by the masonry team in the same manner as the brick, saving time and cost. Unlike traditional masonry, the modular full-bed depth system was able to support the brick and cast stone above, and the outcome produced the time-honed look of hand-cut stone with its antiqued edges and textured face while featuring the modern benefits of manufactured masonry.
Athens-based Halloran Masonry was awarded the contract for installation. With a commitment to craftsmanship, safety, and professionalism, the 45-year-old firm has earned a reputation for completing quality, award-winning, turnkey projects with its own trusted employees.
CEO Shane Halloran noted, “We had used Echelon products before. The Waterford was easy to install, easy to train people on, and it has a classy look. It really blends into the surrounding area. The architects did a wonderful job in choosing materials.”
Jason Gomes, the superintendent for the project, added, “Echelon is a nice product to work with, and the pre-assembled varied sizes helped with daily production allowing our masons to get the square footage in the wall needed to stay on schedule. It also blended well with the other materials—an overall great choice.”
Available in a wide range of sizes, including large format veneers up to 20 ½ inches in length, Waterford Stone® veneers grant unparalleled design flexibility. Echelon’s unique multiple-color blending system guarantees a lasting look that won’t fade over time. For the Presbyterian Homes community, Oldcastle APG ultimately supplied 50,000 square feet of Echelon’s Waterford Stone in Avondale, a palette created from shades of beige and brown.
For the interior, Waterford Stone was also used on various fireplaces as well as the Chapel, a key feature when entering the property—so the Waterford Stone theme is carried throughout the property. High walls, low walls, radius walls, columns, tapered columns, and many other features were completed using Waterford Stone.
The reactions to the completed retirement village have been enthusiastic, with overall sales exceeding expectations. The apartment phase of the complex initially included 70 units, but demand for these residences resulted in a full build-out of 100 units.
Ream stated, “The success of this venture had a lot to do with the track record of Presbyterian Homes. They’ve cultivated a gold-standard reputation for top-notch care, which instilled confidence in the residents who bought in early on. The fact that the community functions well and looks good helps the success of our client.”
With forty years in the business, Batson Associates has carved out a niche in healthcare-focused design. Ream explained that the Presbyterian Homes undertaking was the first design of this magnitude for his firm.
“Annually, only one large-scale project like this is completed in the United States. We were hands-on from day one until its recent completion. It was a unique undertaking, and we were fortunate enough to be entrusted with it.”
Learn more at www.EchelonMasonry.com
About The Author
Dave Jackson is Senior Brand Manager, Dry Mix + Commercial Masonry & Hardscapes, Oldcastle APG, a CRH Company. Coming from an ad agency background with a specialization in building products, Dave melds creativity and industry intelligence to help the masonry team remain the premier provider of modern masonry solutions to construction pros, architects, and builders across North America.