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Retiring in Rome: Locals and outsiders alike are making deposits on The Spires retirement community

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Though there are no physical buildings to walk through yet, Joel and Lynn Todino have already put down a deposit on the place where they’d like to retire. 

It’s right here in Rome — The Spires at Berry College — a continuing care retirement community that will be located on Berry College property. The main entrance will be on Redmond Circle and the complex will overlook the former Florida Rock quarry, now named Eagle Lake.

And while construction hasn’t started yet, that hasn’t stopped the Todinos and — 106 other people — from already making deposits to secure a place at The Spires.

“We got on board really early when they sent Joel a survey about a retirement community at Berry College,” Lynn said. “They were just starting to think about doing it and he said it looked pretty good. We really liked the idea.”

One of the factors that contributed to their decision was that the Todinos didn’t want their kids worrying about them in their later years.

“We decided it was a pretty good deal,” Lynn said, adding that the couple have signed up for a cottage at The Spires. “And it looks like it’s going to be a lovely environment to live in. We can have our dogs out there and we don’t have to do any maintenance and we’ll have access to all the facilities as well as to Berry College.”

Lynn added that many of her friends have already made a deposit to join her and Joel at The Spires, and even more are considering it.

“A lot of people think it’s just for retired Berry teachers or alum,” said Morgan Lamphere, VP of Marketing for The Spires at Berry College. “But that’s not true. It’s open to anyone. We have people from all over Georgia and from several states away and even from as far away as California making deposits.”

But what is it that’s attracting people to The Spires?

Lamphere believes it’s a combination of things. The setting of The Spires, surrounded by beautiful Berry land and overlooking a lake certainly doesn’t hurt. But there are other things that are appealing to people, she said.

“This will be a vibrant, active retirement community,” Lamphere said. “Half of the people who have made deposits have been involved in the education field. These are people who are intelligent and active.”

And there’s also a mentorship program that will be fostered between the residents and Berry students. Residents will mentor students in a variety of areas including business, finance, history and law.

And The Spires will offer a variety of living situations to its residents including condos, apartments and cottages.

But the numbers are also appealing to potential residents, Lamphere said.

“Deposits are fully refundable and are interest bearing so there’s really no risk,” she said. “And when it’s time to actually build and design the living spaces, residents will have a say in that as well. Plus we’re giving discounts of more than $60,000 right now.”

But there’s also a less tangible way The Spires are being marketed. Lamphere and her team want to start building the community ahead of time. So even though there are no physical buildings yet, there are still plenty of activities — such as lunches, lectures, presentations and site tours— that residents can attend to keep up with the progress and also build relationships with other future residents.

The average age of depositors is 75. Those from out of state are coming from Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama and California.

In the past three months, 25 new reservation deposits have come in. Of those, 76 percent are couples.

Lynn Todino knows it’s a hard sell for many people.

“There’s a certain amount of trust, sure,” she said. “All we’ve seen are drawings and we’ve been out to the site but there aren’t any buildings up yet. For some people that’s tough to put a deposit on. But we know Berry is involved and Berry has a good reputation. So for us it’s worth the wait.”

“What I want people to know is that people shouldn’t think of the The Spires as an assisted living facility,” Lamphere said. “We have people of a range of ages who are going to be residents. We have people who will use this as their home base but plan to travel most of the time. We have people who plan to live very active and vibrant lives. But we also offer assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing care if that’s needed down the road.”

Teb and Linn Bowman live in Big Canoe. But they’ve also made a deposit to live at The Spires. They’ve both had professional careers, Teb currently teaches at the college level and said they both had a desire to be associated with a higher-level academic institution.

“Berry was a major factor in the development and in our decision,” he said. “I think it makes a difference to other people as well. And we wanted to be near to good medical facilities as we get older.”

Linn said after meetings and activities with other future residents, she saw the potential for friendships at The Spires and is excited about the chance to take courses at Berry College.

“We want to keep learning and to keep improving,” she said. “We look at this as a place to have new experiences and to learn and improve ourselves.”

The Bowmans have visited the location of The Spires twice.

“You’ve got to be able to envision a lot of things,” Teb said. “That’s the down side. We have to wait about two years before we can move in. But the positive thing is that we have an input in what our unit will be like. We have a say in its design.”

The Bowmans, like other future residents of The Spires, said the Rome community itself was also a big factor in their decision to move here.

“When we visited Rome we saw a lot of work going on downtown,” Teb said. “And the city manager (Sammy Rich) spoke to us at a meeting for residents recently and I was very impressed by the amount of building that’s going on. They’re trying to maintain a vibrant community there in Rome.”

And that’s just what the Todinos expect in the community at The Spires.

“We’ll have access to the college which is a big plus,” Lynn Todino said. “We’ll have young people working around us and we can take courses at Berry and participate in activities.

“We have lived in Rome since 1972," she added. "We love Rome. There’s so much here for us — culture and schools and the medical community. Our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids are here. We want to stay here.”