Construction projects can be complex. To simplify the process for our clients, a project manager serves as their point-person throughout the project. Being that point-person requires strong communication, leadership and delegation skills, as well as confidence to make decisions, both big and small. Skills Kelly Hovde has in spades.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be an architect, so I enrolled in the architecture program at the University of Minnesota," said Kelly. “During my junior year, I discovered I'm really drawn more to engineering and construction – which meant I wasn't a great designer! So, after graduating with a bachelor's of science degree in architecture, I continued with school."
Kelly went on to achieve a master's of engineering in construction engineering and management from the University of Michigan in 2011. This led her to Opus, where she continued her education while working full time, graduating with a master's degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas in 2018.
For six years, Kelly has managed projects for us in the Twin Cities. She develops the project scope, estimates costs, determines the schedule and executes processes throughout the life of the project. For project managers like Kelly, working closely with the client while coordinating the work of architects, designers, contractors and subcontractors is the name of the game. Doing it well brings incredible value to clients.
Hands-On Dedication to Learn a New Sector
Crucial to the success of our projects is our team's hands-on dedication to the work. A dedication Kelly exhibited on the Orchards of Minnetonka.
Our first foray into senior living, Orchards of Minnetonka is a 147-unit facility with a full continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living and memory care. Thoughtfully designed, Orchards provides residents and their visitors with a comfortable, home-like environment that has the amenities they want, like a salon, chapel, club room, community room, two dining rooms and outdoor spaces with gardens and water features. The facility is managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota's largest senior living operator with 100 years of experience.
“For Orchards of Minnetonka, I was on a project management team of three," said Kelly. “Our senior project manager, Scott Shifflett, provided guidance and support while entrusting most of the day-to-day running of the project to me and Tayler Matzke, associate project manager. We worked on it together, divide and conquer style."
As the first senior living project for Kelly and the team, there were opportunities to learn.
Designing buildings for seniors is quite different from market rate or student living projects, like those Kelly and the team had worked on previously. For instance, memory care units and related areas need to be somewhat subdued. Carpet and décor need to be comforting and not busy. And for accessibility, spaces need low or no thresholds and strategies for managing damage from wheelchairs, walkers and scooters.
“The most important thing is that senior living developments need to be a home," said Kelly. “People are leaving their homes of the past 30 years to live here. It shouldn't feel like a hotel. This is their new home and it should feel like one. This impacts the scale of spaces, finishes and furniture selections. For instance, residents don't want statement seating. They want comfortable chairs for sitting and reading the paper or visiting."
Thoughtfully Considered Memory Care Facility
A personal experience also guided Kelly's management of the project and gave her insight into what seniors and memory care residents truly need.
“My grandmother had Alzheimer's from the time I was in seventh grade until she passed away when I was in college," explained Kelly. “In the beginning, there were early signs like forgetting her nouns and minor things like that, but by the time I graduated high school, she no longer knew who I was. It was a 10-year steady progression, seven of which were diagnosed and under memory care."
Thoughtfully designed with residents' best interests in mind, everything in Orchard's memory care area revolves around a central shared living space – not a single resident's room is tucked back in a corner. Residents should never be dropped in front of a screen, so there's only one in the space. Activity spaces are subdivided to accommodate different activities that meet the needs of the many stages of memory loss.
“Ebenezer's Dimensions Memory Care program is fantastic," said Kelly. “It is backed by a great deal of research and administered by an experienced staff and leadership team. They care so much about the residents. They almost cried when they saw the activity kitchen we added to the space. We designed it so residents can roll their own dough for cookies and decorate them for sharing with others (the staff does the baking). My grandmother's senior living program was wonderful, but I remember feeling like the activities were a bit like kindergarten. It's a challenging balance to keep memory care from feeling that way, and I think Orchards is an excellent example of how to do it right."
Opening to Positive Reviews
“Kelly works very hard on the client's behalf," said Tom Becker, regional vice president of project management and construction. “In addition to her technical expertise, she is skilled at developing personal relationships with clients. At the Orchards of Minnetonka grand opening, Ebenezer was so appreciative of Kelly's tireless commitment to supporting their mission, they presented her with a gift and hugs all around. Kelly is truly a strong asset for our clients and for Opus."
The positive reviews didn't end there.
“At Opus, we don't cut corners. I heard Ebenezer say it on tours many times, stating it is a good solid building and no shortcuts were taken," Kelly said. “It's incredibly rewarding to deliver a product that will positively affect the lives of people living there."