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Winthrop

$20m assisted living facility planned

A Western Massachusetts developer will begin work next month on a $20 million assisted and independent living facility at the former Winthrop Community Hospital.

The East Longmeadow-based Gralia Group is planning to transform the site into a senior residential community that will be known as the Arbors at Winthrop. The 100,000-square-foot building, which has been vacant for more than a decade, will consist of 53 assisted living apartments, 17 independent living apartments, and 20 memory-care apartments for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Jason Robertson, vice president of the Gralia Group, said it is planning for the facility to open in September 2014, and it would pay about $150,000 in taxes to the town. Gralia, which operates similar facilities in Stoughton, Taunton, Amherst, Greenfield, Chicopee, and Westfield, expects to hire about 60 full-time and part-time employees for the new facility.

“We saw a market there,” said Robertson, who noted that there are no assisted living facilities currently in Winthrop. “Our calculations showed that there was unmet demand for assisted living.”

The project represents the largest private development in Winthrop in recent years, said Town Manager James McKenna. “We’ve been a forgotten corner of the Boston interior for some time and people are waking up to the incredible virtues of this community — the proximity to Boston and good redevelopment like this,” he said. “It will serve our seniors and our aging population well, by maintaining this service locally.”

Robertson said the rental units would range from $4,500 to $5,400 a month.

The facility will be staffed around the clock with nurses and certified nursing assistants who will do apartment checks every couple of hours; tenants will also be issued wireless pendants that would alert a nurse in case of an emergency. The apartments will range up to 1,000 square feet, with independent living units having third-floor views of the Boston skyline.

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For much of its 60-year existence, Winthrop Community Hospital was a full-service health care facility. Generations of Winthrop residents were born there, worked its halls, and were treated there. But even after a new wing was constructed in 1982, the hospital couldn’t keep up with nearby Boston medical centers, and it closed in 1994.

For a while, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center had a clinic on the site, but that was shuttered about a decade ago.

In 2001, Winthrop Cove Realty Trust bought the old hospital and planned to develop condos on the site. But after 10 years of drawing up plans, it sold the property last year to SMC Management, which is leasing the site to the Gralia Group.

“This means that we’re going to have a nice-looking place again,” said Karin Chavis, who lives on Lincoln Street across from the former hospital — now ringed by an eight-foot-high chain link fence. For Chavis, the brick complex has always been like a second home. She was born there, her mother worked as a nurse there, and then she worked as a nurse there for 28 years. She gave birth to her two children in its obstetrics wing.

“I put my life into that building,” said Chavis, who has watched weeds and overgrown bushes take over its grounds since it closed. Chavis has attended several community meetings about the project and believes the facility will serve many of the town’s seniors.

James Latterie, a member of the Winthrop Town Council, said he is elated that the property will be redeveloped and cleaned up.

“The hospital, visually, has been an eyesore for the neighborhood for the last 12 years, and it’s going to revitalize the aesthetic appearance and do it in a way that’s not going to burden them with traffic or any other disruptions,” he said.

Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at srosenberg@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WriteRosenberg.

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