Winchester House nursing home residents all to be moved into replacement today

After more than 150 years, a new era in skilled nursing for Lake County residents will begin today with the opening of a new facility to replace the age-old Winchester House.

The yellowed page will officially turn after all 98 residents of the five-story building at Winchester Road and Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) in Libertyville are transferred in an elaborately planned move.

Employees, too, will switch locations to the 185-bed Thrive of Lake County, a state-licensed facility built on a former driving range at Route 45 southeast of Route 83 in Mundelein.

"Different name, same people," said Brad Haber, principal with Innovative Health LLC, the developer and owner of the $30 million project.

State health officials signed off on all needed final approvals Tuesday, Haber said, paving the way for the long-planned replacement of Winchester House.

Because the physical conditions, needs and other logistics of every resident had to be carefully coordinated, the transfer won't happen quickly.

But it will be complete some time today, Haber said. At that point, the building that has been under construction for 18 months officially will be open and any remaining government connection will end.

Thrive of Lake County has 56 beds for long-term residents and 50 memory care beds. Nearly all of those will be taken by current Winchester House residents, one of the conditions county officials insisted on.

"That was very important to us," said Lake County Board Member Steve Carlson, an original and current member of the Winchester House Advisory Board, which has studied and debated issues surrounding the facility for a dozen years or more.

The new element offered at the Mundelein location is 79 beds for short-term, inpatient rehab. That portion of the business has a separate entrance and will operate independently, Haber said.

"There literally is nothing like this in that area," he said. Thrive just opened a short-term rehab facility in Lisle and plans to open one this fall in Aurora.

Most of the short-term rehab rooms in Mundelein are private with individual restrooms and are equipped to have oxygen pumped in, he added, making them a suitable COVID-19 relief valve for hospitals, if need be.

Winchester House opened in 1847 as a poor farm and evolved into a long-term, 24-hour skilled nursing facility. The building on the Lake County campus in Libertyville is nearing a half century old and renovations were determined to be too costly.

The county opted to get out of the nursing home business because of decreasing usage, dwindling revenue and a substantial deficit.

Traditional Care of Lake County, an entity of Rosemont-based Innovative Health, has operated Winchester House under contract with Lake County since Aug. 1, 2015, and was selected to build the replacement.

Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz and Amanda Orenchuk, the village's community development director, welcomed the new venture.

"The building is beautiful, functional and meets a need for senior services," Lentz said.

Orenchuk added: "On a recent tour of the facility, it was apparent the passion and level of care the team has for every detail."

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This is the courtyard at Thrive of Lake County on Route 45 in Mundelein. The $30 million facility is replacing Winchester House on the Lake County government campus in Libertyville. Courtesy of Innovative Health LLC
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