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CEDAR FALLS | Western Home Communities plans to break ground next week on a $42 million wellness and community center with independent living and skilled nursing cottages.

The center would be located on 16 acres on the southeast corner of the Western Home's growing South Main Street campus, west of Prairie Parkway and north of the Cedar Falls Wal-Mart.

Major elements of the development include a three-story wellness and community center, attached on the south end by a new independent living community, dubbed "Prairie Wind," with 75 apartments, and on the north end by a 60-person skilled rehabilitation building.

A formal groundbreaking is scheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 26 at the site, though some preliminary site work has already begun.

Final site plan approval is pending before the City Council, but the city's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval last week. The city planning staff also has recommended approval. The plan commission approved a final plat in May.

"We're tremendously excited about this new project," Western Homes CEO Kris Hansen said. The wellness and community center includes 20 units of "restorative suites" for people recovering from surgeries or other medical events such as strokes, whether they are on the Western Home campus or in independent living.

It also will have an exercise center for seniors, a walking area for cardio workouts and an aquatic center with swimming lanes and an area for water aerobics and other activities. It will also have a barista-style coffee area, breakfast nook, evening dining, a beauty salon and other amenities.

"The restaurant is open to the public," Hansen said, noting the Western Home wants to encourage "intergenerational" activities among its residents, school children and University of Northern Iowa students, noting many residents may be retired UNI faculty and staff.

The community center has performance space, offering the opportunity for activities like intergenerational choirs. They also want to offer mentoring opportunities between community residents and younger people.

Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months with completion in 2017.

While site plan approval is pending before the City Council, Hansen said, "the city has been very supportive. They want to make sure that there's a good quality project. I think it's going to go well."

"They've been talking about this for a long time," Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews said of the project. "It's a good thing for their residents. They've done a great job in providing arrangements for seniors."

The intergenerational aspects of the community center are good for Western Home residents "and good for the rest of the community," Crews said.

He noted it complements medical-related developments in the nearby growing Pinnacle Prairie area.

Western Home Communities' South Main Street campus has seen several significant expansions over the years.

"I told them they could have their own zip code pretty soon," Crews quipped.

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