The ground was a bit too hard-packed and gravel-covered to easily break with a shovel, so a soft dirt berm was created so those participating in the Lake Geneva Golden Years ground-breaking on June 29 could have something to scoop.

About 60 local officials, Walworth Golden Years residents and Austin family members took turns putting on hard hats and grabbing golden shovels to mark the start of work on the Lake Geneva senior living center’s first phase.

According to Linda Austin, the ground near the entrance to the Golden Years site was packed down by heavy machinery and the gravel was added to provide a solid surface following heavy rains earlier in the week.

Attending were state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, and state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, along with Lake Geneva aldermen Doug Skates, Richard Hedlund and Bob Kordus.

Real ground-breaking and the start of construction is expected to start this week, said Richard Austin, who owns Golden Years with his wife, Linda.

The Austins plan to build new senior housing on the north side of North Bloomfield Road, about 500 feet east of Edwards Boulevard.

The 11.5- acre site is on the southwestern corner of the proposed Symphony Bay subdivision, which several at the ceremony remembered as the old Lake Geneva Raceway.

Richard Austin said the entire senior housing complex, which will provide independent living, rehabilitation services, assisted living options, memory care and long-term care, will take about 15 years to complete.

The first phase in the for-profit Golden Years campus will be a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility with 30 beds and 50 employees, he said.

According to city records, the goal is to achieve occupancy by December 2017.

The next phase will be a dementia care facility with 20 beds.

According to planning documents filed with the city, Lake Geneva Golden Years will have:

  • 55 to 70 independent living apartments.
  • 30 to 36 assisted living apartments.
  • 15 to 20 memory care (Alzheimer’s and dementia) assisted living apartments.
  • 30 to 45 skilled nursing care beds.

When completed, the senior living center is expected to contain 202,000 square feet of floor area and 171 total residential units.

Design of the senior living center facility was done by architects, Hoffman & Associates, Appleton, which specializes in health care facilities, Richard Austin said.

Scherrer Construction, Burlington, is the main contractor.

The project was first proposed to the Lake Geneva Plan Commission in December 2016. The Lake Geneva City Council approved all plans and variances for the project in February.

The Austins are no strangers to providing senior housing.

They currently own the Golden Years senior living center in Walworth.

Vic Cabrey, then 80, began building what is now Golden Years in 1960. Cabrey opened the facility in 1965 and in 1969 he retired.

Eugene and Margaret Ann Austin bought the Golden Years Nursing Home in 1969 and that year, Richard Austin began to work there as well.

In 1980, Richard and Linda bought the nursing home from Richard’s parents.

The home remains family owned.

The Walworth Golden Years campus includes a 60-unit senior apartment complex, a 27-bed assisted living residence and a 28-bed Medicare certified skilled nursing center.

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.