Thoughtful Design Helps Blacksburg Residents Age in Place

Pat Lewis at Grissom Lane

For Blacksburg, Va., newcomer Pat Lewis, being able to afford an efficient, well-planned home in a close-knit community almost seemed too good to be true.  Lewis, who moved here a month ago from Myrtle Beach, knew she wanted to live in a town where neighbors, transportation, and downtown amenities were close by. As a senior citizen, it was also important to Lewis that she could continue to live in the home of her choice safely and independently as she got older.

Fortunately for Lewis, her ideal living situation became a reality when she was selected from a local housing lottery to be a resident of the newly-constructed Grissom Lane Apartments in Blacksburg.

Developed by CHP in partnership with the Town of Blacksburg, Grissom Lane Apartments is a model of eco-friendly, affordable housing for residents aged 55 years and older. The design of the new rental community was inspired by a community charrette organized by representatives of the New River Valley Livability Initiative to discuss the meaning of aging in place and conceptualize new intentional housing options for the New River Valley. As a result, CHP Design Studio and CHP Construction incorporated Universal Design features throughout the rental community so that residents may live safely, independently, and comfortably for the long term.

At the November 5 dedication ceremony celebrating the completion of Grissom Lane Apartments, Lewis remarked, “It’s so nice that the apartments are all on one level. It’s clear that they thought about all of my needs—from hand railings and lower cabinets to wheel chair accessibility. In each room, someone looked at and addressed every aspect of living I might encounter. There is no instance where I’ve wished they had done things differently.”

As the first EARTHCRAFT Net-Zero Ready development in the state of Virginia, each home at Grissom Lane Apartments produces as much or more energy than it uses. Electricity is generated by a net-metered 28kW solar photovoltaic system, while high insulation values, extensive air sealing, Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV), and mini-split heat pumps are used to reduce the energy demand on the homes.

“I’m excited about the energy-efficient features because they will help with utility bills,” said Lewis. “You can tell by just looking at them that the apartments are well built. Also, when you have the front and back doors shut, you can hear and feel just how well insulated they are. There won’t be air coming in under doors and it will be very comfortable living here.”

The rental community has four duplex cottages and is managed by CHP Property Management. The one-and-a-quarter-acre site, which allowed the homes to be intimately arranged along a short walking loop, also includes a community garden and central gathering area where residents have the opportunity to create a supportive community.

The development was funded in part by the Town of Blacksburg's Community Development Block Grant Program, the New River Valley HOME Consortium, NEIGHBORWORKS AMERICA, and Enterprise Community Partners.