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New ALF draws seniors into the life of downtown Safety Harbor


Sylvia Shor sits in the community room enjoying fresh strawberries with Cool Whip.

One of her neighbors relaxes on the veranda overlooking Safety Harbor's Main Street, watching passing traffic while playing Uno.

Meanwhile, Fabio B. Dasilva and a few friends with a hankering for ice cream cross Main Street to grab a cone from Cold Stone Creamery.

Making residents a part of the downtown scene was one of the goals of Safety Harbor Senior Living, an assisted living facility that opened just over a month ago in a historic downtown building at the corner of Main Street and Bayshore Boulevard.

The first nine residents of the facility are enjoying the convenience of living beside the Safety Harbor Library, within a short walk of the city marina, and on the same street as shops and restaurants. The ALF will have 50 residents when it reaches capacity.

"I lived alone but had a bad fall about two months ago," said Shor, 93, a retired violinist from the Baltimore Symphony. "The people here couldn't be nicer to me. I'm very fortunate to have gotten into the hands of these people."

Safety Harbor Senior Living is located in the Harbor House building at 101 Main St., where some rooms lend themselves to direct views of the famed Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

Previously a hotel, the Harbor House was built in 1925 by James F. Tucker, who purchased Espiritu Santo Springs, or Springs of the Holy Spirit, and the surrounding land. Harbor House was named the St. James Hotel and the De Soto and was used for guest overflow from the spa. It is said to be one of the first buildings in Pinellas County to have an elevator.

The building is owned by Tampa-based Ucita Properties, and about $800,000 was spent to renovate the structure to house the ALF. The city's Downtown Partnership Grant program chipped in $53,607. In addition to a new entrance at the rear of the building, a commercial kitchen was added and a new elevator.

The ALF, located on the second and third floors, has 18 rooms, with the second floor reserved for patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Rooms range from 135 square feet to 500 square feet.

The facility has dark hardwood floors, flat screen televisions and comfortable seating areas. Dasilva brought his baby grand piano for all to enjoy in a community room. JoAnne Allman, the facility's chef, shops the local market every day for fresh foods and meats.

"We are trying to create a home," said Lisa Jones, Senior Living's executive director. "We will not have a hotel feel and we are not in some secluded place surrounded by woods and there is no grand chandelier. We have a cozy family room, like home. We want this to feel like their home."

Depending on the amenities requested, it costs about $2,700 a month on average to live at Safety Harbor Senior Living.

It's the location that sold Dasilva, 77, who also brought a portion of his art collection to his corner room, which opens to the veranda that overlooks Main Street.

"There's the weather, the shops are fine, the spa is fine," said Dasilva, a retired University of Notre Dame professor who speaks several languages. "The food is great and I feel pampered."

Resident Issy Mangialardi was reluctant to leave her Spring Hill home, but with her husband Joseph battling Alzheimer's, she needed a little help. Joseph Mangialardi, 85, is a former Marine who retired from the Chicago Fire Department as a captain. They moved together to Safety Harbor Senior Living.

"It's the best move we could have made," said Issy Mangialardi, 82, noting that she was able to bring some of her furniture, which helps to make the space feel like hers. "Everybody is just so good to us. They wash our clothes, cook three meals a day, they do everything.

"(Joseph) always saved for this day, just in case he needed help or I needed help," she said. "It feels like home."

New ALF draws seniors into the life of downtown Safety Harbor 03/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 12:14pm]
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