When the founder of Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home (CJNH), Lena Goldberg, started out in 1919, she simply took a multi-family building in Chelsea and made it a welcoming home for aging Jewish immigrants.
Through the years, they moved from that small home and the organization’s flagship home – now tucked tightly onto a hill on Lafayette Avenue – became much bigger and took on the look of a traditional, albeit award winning, nursing home.
Now, the organization has come full circle, Chief Operating Officer Adam Berman said, and they’re going back to that “home” model that was so successful to their founder, Lena Goldberg, nearly 100 years ago.
“We’re very much coming full circle with the idea our founder, Mrs. Goldberg, originally had when she remodeled a multi-family home in Chelsea to care for the elderly,” said Berman. “We’re going back to that home atmosphere here that she had and what should have been present all along. Now we’re able to take the modern things and modern care and put it into that initial model. There was something to Mrs. Goldberg’s philosophy.”
What CJNH is planning is a complete, $16 million renovation of the facility, not only updating it, but changing its philosophy.
Instead of each floor having an elevator with a nurse station, several rooms and a cafeteria supplied by a central kitchen, the new configuration will feature two “homes” consisting of 20 residents on each floor. It is a similar philosophy employed at CJNH’s ground breaking Lenny Florence Center for Living on Admiral’s Hill.
One of the key elements there is eliminating the institutional central kitchen and having each “home” cook its own meals. That will be a major part of CJNH’s renovation on Lafayette Avenue.
“There were a couple different scenarios for this, and by far, this was the most radical change and the one that we were the most comfortable with,” said Berman. “When you set out to create a home, having that central kitchen defeats the purpose. The thing that stands out to most is when anyone walks in during breakfast, lunch or dinner and they can smell the meal cooking. That is missing when the food is brought up on a steam table. That home you’re trying to create is not a home. You can add things and make things more aesthetic, but it’s not a home in the way we envision a home.”
That new vision for the home will include completely renovating the lobby, adding a floor over the current open space so that a larger cafe can be introduced. The current, smaller cafe was carved out of empty space in the lobby many years ago, and became “wildly popular” Berman said. He said he wants to improve on the idea.
The European Day Spa – also first introduced at Lafayette Avenue and exported to other venues – will remain as it currently stands.
“There’s no reason to fix something that’s not broken,” said Berman.
The chapel will also get a major renovation too.
However, it will be the rooms – or homes – that will be the centerpiece of the project.
Berman pointed out that when one comes out of the elevator, they will be bathed in natural light as the architects plan to use a lot of glass – capitalizing on the beautiful view from the home.
“The first thing coming at you when you get out of the elevator will be natural light and the view,” he said.
There will also be fireplaces in the common areas of each 20-person home to accompany the kitchen and eating space.
The full project is expected to take 18 months to complete, and Berman said they are hoping to get a start on it this spring.
“This is a building where it all started for this organization,” said Berman. “We’ve already had people interested from as far away as Seattle in seeing the renderings of this building’s renovations. This is really going to be a model for the future.”