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Respond! purchased the derelict St John’s College building from the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore in 2007 with a plan to deliver high quality homes and support services to cater for older people.
Their ambitious plan included 21 new apartments in the College, with a 10-bed group home and 36 new-build one-bed apartments overlooking the Folly as well as a Day Centre which will cater for the wider Waterford community.
Now, that dream is about to become a reality and Respond! in Waterford is preparing to enter a new era.
The official sod turning of the John’s College project took place in December 2013 and construction work began in March 2014.
At the height of the construction process, 160 people were working on the project on a daily basis.
There was significant damage on the upper floors of the landmark Gothic Revivalist style building due to water ingress with outbreaks of dry rot and deterioration throughout due to a lack of heating.
On entering the college grounds, it’s clear that significant care and attention has gone into restoring the building’s imposing exterior to its former glory.
And on entering the building itself, it’s immediately obvious that this attention to detail has been continued throughout.
A conservation officer has been involved in the construction process every step of the way, ensuring that the historical aspects associated with St John’s College are preserved.
The building’s former library has been transformed into a multi-purpose Activation Room that will cater for Respond! tenants, Day Centre users and people from the wider community.
The old dining room in St John’s College has been turned into a purpose built Day Centre with a conservatory that will cater for older people and people with specific needs and requirements.
It is envisaged that the Day Centre will become a lively social hub for older people in this area of the city.
“From our feedback, we established that there was a need for such a facility in this area,” said Philip O’Reilly, National Co-ordinator of Services for Older People with Respond!
It’s hoped that the centre will become a focal point within the community and that local schools can get involved with activities such as intergenerational programmes.
Located off this room is an impressive conservatory which has been fitted with special glass to ensure it’s not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter.
The Chapel and Gallery in the College remained largely intact and possess some of the finest stain glass windows in Ireland.
This space will be developed into a state of the art Community Education Centre which will cater for groups of up to 150 people.
“Respond! courses will be hosted in this centre, but our aim is to also involve other groups and to encourage them to use this facility as well,” explained Philip O’Reilly.
He said a need for such conference facilities in Waterford had been identified.
“We also plan on developing a counselling service to cater for tenants as well as the wider community. We want to see people coming in and out. Everything we run in Respond! involves a partnership approach,” explained Mr O’Reilly.
The Cloister Court has been developed into a Sensory Garden, with lots of research taking place into its development to ensure that users can congregate in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Additionally, a gymnasium for older people has also been developed on the grounds.
In total, there are 21 apartments within the college building which are designed in the same style and offer plenty of space and natural light.
A look inside a front facing finished apartment highlights the beautiful view over Waterford City which exists, with the majestic Comeragh Mountains in the distance.
The building is fully wheelchair accessible and fitted with a wheelchair lift.
College House is the name which has been given to the old college building while the new apartments are to be known as College Mews.
The apartments, which are located alongside the college overlooking The Folly, also offer plenty of space and natural light and are fitted with a new state of the art heating system.
Mr O’Reilly said there has been much interest in the project within the locality.
“The place is in pristine condition and almost ready to move into,” he said.
“A lot of assessments have been carried out and, so far, the average age of those interested is 57/58 including a lot of couples and there is a good spilt between male and female.”
An Open Day will take place on Sunday November 8th from 1pm to 4pm and anyone interested in the John’s College project is encouraged to attend.
Show apartments are being set-out by Affordable Furniture, located at Unit 1 Boland Retail Park, Cork Road, Waterford.