May 10, 2024

Demand Drives Expansion: Alder Springs $8.4 million project adds 26 apartments, large activity center

Rendered view of Activity Center Drive

Posted Friday, May 10, 2024 9:20 pm

By BILL POTEAT Editor Emeritus

Alder Springs, an independent living apartment community for the deaf and blind in Morganton, is gearing up for a major expansion.

Fundraising is underway to finance the construction of a second apartment building on the campus, located on the site of the old Morganton High School on College Street, as well as an activity center.

The expansion is driven by a national demand that has generated a waiting list for residence in the new building long before the first shovel of dirt is turned.

“The actual cost of the project is $8.4 million,” explained Sam Avery, chairman of the Alder Springs Board of Directors. “$250,000 will be in non-cash contributions. The remainder of the costs will be covered by loans.”

The fundraising goal is set at $3.75 million, of which $1.5 million has already been raised, leaving a capital campaign goal of $2.25 million.

Avery added that if all goes according to plan, the groundbreaking for the two new buildings will occur in the summer of 2025 with an expected completion date in the summer of 2027.

From the beginning, Avery said, “The mission of Alder Springs has been to provide and sustain a safe and secure independent-living environment that simplifies daily living and meets the unique social, emotional, and lifestyle needs of the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing.”

The new apartment building will include:

  • 25,000 square feet, with 26 apartments on three floors with balconies.
  • Eleven one-bedroom apartments of about 700 square feet
  • Six two-bedroom units of around 1,000 square feet
  • Nine studio apartments of just over 500 square feet
  • Multiple floor plans, with more efficient layouts than in the original building
  • Efficient kitchens with more storage space that are more navigable by wheelchair or cart
  • Guest-accessible bathrooms in both the one- and two-bedroom units
  • An additional service elevator
  • And a central storage room, available to every apartment at no charge

Activity Center

The 8,000-square-foot Activity Center will be centrally located, free standing, and is expected to be, Avery said, “the hub of resident life” as well as a resource for the entire Western North Carolina deaf and blind community.

It is expected to include:

  • A large multi-purpose room, capable of holding 130 people at table seating or 172 in theater seating. This room can also be divided into small spaces.
  • A catering kitchen
  • Flexible use classroom
  • A small lending library
  • An activity room for small group activities
  • A patio and courtyard
  • And a property manager’s office

“This activity center is something that is badly needed,” Avery said. “As anyone familiar with the deaf and deafblind community will testify, these folks love to socialize and love to gather together. This will give them space to comfortably do just that.”

Dottie Kirksey, who is president of the N.C. School for the Deaf Foundation, which owns Alder Springs, is enthusiastic about the benefits this expansion will bring to the deaf community.

“The deaf community is a tight community,” Kirksey said. “They love a place like this. A place where they can gather and socialize. A place where they can communicate with their neighbors.”

“The new activity center will be a big pull,” said Kirksey who worked as a teacher and licensure specialist at NCSD for 17 years before her retirement in 2011.

“Homecomings, class reunions, and a host of other activities can be held right here.”

Noting that Alder Springs, which is operated as a private, not-for-profit entity that accepts no government funding, has always been financially secure, Kirksey said, “This expansion is most definitely needed. We already have a waiting list for the new building. And, the fact that it will include studio apartments will make it more affordable for a wider range of people.

“Morganton is the perfect place for a community like this,” Kirksey added. “NCSD has been here since 1894. The local community is accustomed to the deaf population. This is like the old home place. People are excited to be here.”

Comfort and Safety

Both Avery and Kirksey pointed out that the technology in the current 21-unit apartment building is designed to help residents feel as safe and as comfortable as possible and that will be continued in the new buildings.

The campus is, of course, located adjacent to the Morganton Department of Public Safety on College Street.

The building features advanced access and egress security technology at its entrances. Each unit features a video and audio intercom system, visible and audible fire alarms, a strobe light alert system, a wireless pager alert system for deafblind residents, a security camera network, and a water overflow alert.

“All of this goes back to our initial vision,” Avery said. “To provide an affordable, comfortable, safe community of peers with an environment that is secure, easily navigated, and communication friendly.”

Want to know more about Alder Springs and its current capital campaign? Contact Avery at 828-443-6115, Sandy Turner at 828-443-4077 or go to the recently updated website:

Bill Poteat is editor emeritus of The Paper. He may be reached at 828-445-8595 or via email at [email protected].