St. Louis Jewish Light: Covenant Place celebrates groundbreaking for new building

BY DAVID BAUGHER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Despite an overcast sky and a stubborn breeze that kept toppling artist renderings of Covenant Place, ground was officially broken Thursday morning on Phase 2 of its ambitious, $84 million plan to re-create its three-building housing complex on the Millstone Campus.

“Covenant Place is a very advanced facility for the care of our aging community,” Paul Cahn told about 200 attendees. “This project will serve thousands of area older adults now and into the future.”

The 102-unit building scheduled to rise on the spot by spring 2019 will bear the Cahn family name. 

The first phase of the project, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, opened last year. That allowed the old Covenant I structure to fall to the wrecking ball to make way for the $30 million Cahn Family building. About $11 million of that will come from private sources. 

Though fundraising has played a vital role, the project also received significant support from a wide array of tax credits. It is expected that only about 30 percent of the three-building price tag will have come from private dollars.

Thursday’s event, complete with dignitaries, legislators, members of the Jewish community and gleaming chrome shovels, was largely dedicated to thanking donors, government officials and others for making the construction possible.

“The Covenant Place rebuilding project is, in my view, the most significant social-service infrastructure project of our community in a generation, or perhaps more,” said Andrew Rehfeld, president and CEO of Jewish Federation of St. Louis, who spoke on the importance of building a “robust Jewish public sphere.”

“These institutions are there for a purpose,” he said. “They reflect the values that define our community and create the conditions to come together to solve collective problems and address communal needs.”

Rehfeld said Covenant Place is the perfect embodiment of the community’s ideals.

“Look all around you,” he said. “We are literally sitting in the middle of one of the great visionary projects of the St. Louis Jewish public sphere – the Millstone Jewish Community Campus.”

State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, told the group that her grandmother had been a resident of Covenant House, the original name of Covenant Place before a recent rebranding. 

Schupp, who is Jewish, mentioned relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

“Right now, as we deal with what’s been going on in Texas and Louisiana, I think it brings home the importance of having a home, having a place that you can call your own, having a place where you feel comfortable and dignified,” she said.

Joan Denison, executive director of Covenant Place, stressed the need to house an older population, noting a “senior tsunami” on the horizon in coming years as baby boomers age. According to a fact sheet provided by Covenant Place, more than one of every five Missourians will be age 65 or older by 2030.

“This is the time to plan and implement new models for helping older adults to remain well and independent and engaged,” Denison said. “This brings more quality of life to the residents, to their families, and it is more cost-effective to help people to remain well and independent than to support them in higher care levels.”

The new building will also contain the 19,000-square-foot Mirowitz Center. Named in honor of Helene Mirowitz and her late husband, Carl, the facility will act as a central point for residents and local community to access everything from medical care and physical therapy to café dining and activities.

Covenant Place estimates that about 40,000 seniors live within five miles of the campus, which is within a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC).

“It will really be a hub where services and programs for seniors will be offered to older adults throughout the community,” Denison said. “This is a new and comprehensive model that  addresses the needs of a rapidly growing senior population.”

Richard Baron, CEO and co-founder of McCormack Baron Salazar, the developer working on the Covenant Place construction, said “What is going to be done here at the Cahn Building and the Mirowitz Center really doesn’t exist in America. I think it is important for St. Louis to understand that in addition to the extraordinary project that will be here to serve this community and for those that live just beyond, it will be a project that is going to teach … other organizations, federations and other groups all across the United States about how to integrate services with residential communities.”

Jerry Fiman, president of the tenant council, said Covenant Place is like a family, and he thanked donors, staff and board members for their efforts.

“You have created a very special place for those of us who live here and for the community members who enjoy Covenant Place programs offered to everyone and will have even more to enjoy in the new Mirowitz Center,” he said.

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