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Breaking new ground: Ecumen addition set for fall 2014 completion

Ecumen Detroit Lakes employees, residents, architects, contractors, Detroit Lakes city officials and members of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce broke ground on the communities new short stay wellness and rehabilitation center Thursday afternoon. 1 / 2
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Shiny, gold shovels dug into the dirt Thursday afternoon for a new short-stay rehabilitation and wellness center, which will stand at Ecumen in Detroit Lakes.

City officials and community leaders joined Ecumen staff and residents for the groundbreaking that marks the beginning of some big changes in the Ecumen community.

Part of the existing facility will be torn down, as the 68,000 square foot project will include roughly 20,000 of new, additional space, while the rest is being gutted and remodeled.

Much of what Ecumen officials call “the heart” of the facility will be torn down beginning in two weeks, including the current short stay rehabilitation unit, the main dining area, the main living room space, the beauty salon and the coffee shop.

Resident rooms surrounding that area are being remodeled and made larger.

Some residents are already being shifted around and in many cases, temporarily doubled up in preparation for the construction project.

“Oh, it’s a mess,” said Ruby Eagen, who is one of those residents that was moved out of her private room and in with a roommate. “It’s too cramped in here, but I have hopes that it’s going to be a good thing by next year and everybody will have their own rooms and own bathrooms.”

Eagen is right. Aside from a few double rooms set aside for spouses, the new construction plan includes knocking out walls and remodeling those smaller rooms into larger, private rooms with larger beds and private bathrooms with showers.

Right now, that isn’t the case, as Janet Green, executive director of Ecumen Detroit Lakes, says many bathrooms are not handicapped accessible and cannot accommodate wheelchairs.

“And those are the people who live here,” she said.

Resident Marian Ohman agrees that it will be nice to have proper bathrooms that address dignity and health issues. “I think it’s going to be just great,” she said, smiling.

The rooms are the first part of the project being tackled, which are expected to be opened up to residents by spring.

Part of the new addition will house a new therapy center approximately four times larger than the existing one and will include a large water works pool.

“That’s like a treadmill underwater,” explained Green, “which is a great way to help people recover better. It’s less stress on the joints and a great way to get stronger, faster.”

Green says it’ll be particularly beneficial to residents with illnesses like Parkinson, arthritis and cerebral palsy.

“We asked the residents, ‘what do you want in here?’ and they said they wanted more children, music and exercise,” said Green. “So we’ll also have a new studio that will be great for things like yoga, tai chi and wheelchair exercises.”

A new space for private exam rooms and telehealth/telemedicine technology will also be set up.

“So physicians can do an exam and have specialists all over the nation look at the case for things like second opinions or maybe a better treatment plan,” said Green.

As the old amenities are tore down, new ones will be put up in their place, although the layout of the facility will change.

“We’ll have smaller neighborhood dining instead of one big dining area that doesn’t feel as home-like,” said Green.

The chapel is also being expanded to keep up with the healthy church attendance.

The $10 million project is being funded in part by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and the Otto Bremer Foundation.

The project is expected to wrap up by next fall.