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New Alzheimer’s care facility planned for Bluffton

A sign posted at where Memory Care of Bluffton is expected to open in the fall of 2017.
A sign posted at where Memory Care of Bluffton is expected to open in the fall of 2017. Lucas High

The area around Bluffton’s Buckwalter Place continues to develop as a new Alzheimer’s and dementia residential care facility is planned to open there by next year.

Nashville-based Memory Care America is preparing to break ground on a 44,000-square-foot assisted living community on Bluffton Parkway.

The proposed facility would sit on an 89-acre site just south of Buckwalter Place, a commerce park that is home to the national headquarters of eviCore.

eviCore, a managed health care benefits firm formerly known as CareCore National, is one of Beaufort County’s largest employers and anchors the growing Buckwalter Place area.

The planned Memory Care America facility would offer 64 beds for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related challenges.

“It is designed and built to feel just like a home,” Memory Care America’s vice president of marketing Ricky Perkins said Friday.

But unlike most homes, the rooms will include features — from handrails with lights and motion sensors to refrigerators with glass doors to help residents remember to eat and drink —specially designed to make life easier for patients, he said.

Once up and running, the operation will employ about 40 people, including a staff of full-time nurses, he said.

The majority of those employees will be hired from the Bluffton area.

“All of our (facilities) are locally staffed,” Perkins said. “Our goal is to be part of the community.”

Memory Care America operates — or is in the process of developing — a dozen facilities throughout the South, including locations in Columbia and Greenville.

Perkins said the firm’s goal is to have the Bluffton facility built by mid-2017.

The company, with assistance from engineering firm Thomas & Hutton, is in the process of navigating Bluffton’s development approval and construction permitting process. The town’s Planning Commission gave its blessing earlier this week to an initial master plan for the site.

At this time, plans for the Bluffton Parkway property “are very conceptual in nature,” town planner Pat Rooney said.

What is known for certain is that the Memory Care America facility would sit on the far southwest corner of the parcel, near the intersection of the parkway and Innovation Drive.

The assisted living community would only only occupy a small portion of the 89-acre site, which is owned by University Investments, LLC, according to town documents.

“The remainder of this land is unknown in terms of what the development might be in the future,” Rooney said.

Nathan Long, a project manager with Thomas & Hutton, told Bluffton’s Planning Commission that there have been initial discussions with “potential apartment developers and also residential developers” who may be interested in building on the site.

In addition to eviCore, which recently renewed its headquarters lease for five years and plans to expand its campus, the Buckwalter Place area is home to a shopping center and several town-owned properties.

More development is on the way.

Late last year, the town entered into public-private partnership with Southeastern Development Associates, which owns a large undeveloped swath of the shopping area. The developer plans to build a 113,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace surrounded by other retailers and apartments.

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