Legacy Heights Retirement Center housing both Legacy Heights independent living facility and Memory Lane, a special care unit for Alzheimer’s patients, in Van Buren will add a new $4 million 40-bed unit in front of the existing building.

An Alzheimer’s unit with two separate 20-bed pods will be added to the current Legacy Heights facility, giving the center a total of 67 licensed beds, said Tim Hodges, administrator for Legacy Heights.

Memory Lane already has 27 licensed beds, while Legacy Heights holds 55 apartments for independent living.

Hodges is also executive director for Landmark Ministries of Arkansas, an outreach of Van Buren First Assembly of God, that operates both Legacy Heights and Memory Lane.

Debra Johnson is the administrator for Memory Lane and will oversee the new unit, as well.

While both Memory Lane and Legacy Heights are at capacity, he said, the reason for adding another Alzheimer’s unit is simple: the beds are in higher demand.

"Unfortunately, the disease is progressive and is affecting more people," Hodges said.

In effect, the facility will have three separate Alzheimer’s units, keeping the number of beds in each unit minimal.

This is important so as to cut back on the confusion and anxiety of the patients, Hodges said.

"Dealing with the disease, smaller pods become more important," he said.

A fundraising effort began in January 2012 for the expansion, and enough money has been raised for the construction - though facility administrators plan to continue the effort, Hodges said.

"What we’ve done to this point is raise enough money for the construction of the building," he said. "Our effort now is to raise money for extensive landscaping, technology and for naming rights."

Rick Mooney of Rick Mooney Construction is the general contractor for the project, and Hodges said Mooney expects to begin construction on the expansion sometime in the next two weeks.

Construction should last about eight months, with the new unit opening in late summer, Hodges said.

Legacy Heights originally opened in late 2007 and currently occupies about 70,000 square feet on three stories. The expansion will add about 32,000 square feet on one story, and will be located in front of the existing building.

Included in the expansion will be a center connector with additional administrative and staff offices, and a relocation and expansion of the independent living dining area, Hodges said.

Hodges also expects to add about 20 new staff positions by the time the new unit reaches capacity, Hodges said. Current laundry and kitchen operations will service the new expansion, he said.

Memory Lane is a licensed facility with the Arkansas Office of Long Term Care and is designated as an Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit, one of only 10 such facilities in the state of Arkansas.