Building on Innovation: A Campus Like No Other

Building on Innovation: A Campus Like No Other

Tim Pendergast, Director of Facilities

It’s something of an understatement to say Meth-Wick’s campus grounds are a hidden gem. The expansive 68-acre campus, tucked away in a wooded neighborhood on Cedar Rapids’ northwest side, stands out for its truly innovative approach to the physical layout of senior living spaces. As the campus has grown over the years, the staff and community continuously find new ways to make it a peaceful and beautiful space. Tim Pendergast serves as Director of Facilities and has worked the grounds at Meth-Wick since 1996. He joins us today for a conversation about what makes the campus a special place, riddled with the kind of history and fun facts only a 26-year veteran can provide.

Q: Tell me about your job. How long have you been with Meth-Wick?

A: My position, like Meth-Wick as a whole, has evolved since I joined the staff in September of 1996. Currently it’s my privilege to be senior staff for the Environmental, Landscaping and Maintenance supervisors. Our team consists of 11 maintenance and landscaping employees, three painters and 20 full-time housekeeping staff who work together to maintain our facility and keep it safe.

Q: How does Meth-Wick’s campus differ from other senior living facilities? Is it unusual to have such extensive grounds?

A: There is no other facility with Meth-Wick’s park-like setting nor its proximity to downtown Cedar Rapids and its many amenities.

Q: Tell us about your experience with the derecho. How has your staff dealt with the cleanup and aftermath?

A: We lost hundreds of trees in the derecho, some more than 200 years old. Like many other Cedar Rapids residents, we sustained damage to multiple facilities but we were lucky not to lose any buildings. Residents were patient with interruptions and quickly raised money for tree replacement. Several hundred trees have been planted already with more to come this year, all thanks to resident donations.

Q: Brendel Pond is one of the most unique and iconic outdoor features on campus. How did it come to be? And what’s the story on the koi fish in the pond? 

A: The pond was installed in 1989 alongside construction of the Greenwood Terrace condos. Completely refurbished in 2006 through resident donations, the quarter-acre pond contains about 180,000 gallons of water. It’s difficult to get an exact count but there are a few dozen koi and 100 or more goldfish in the pond. They survive the winter months by hibernating together near the year-round aerator where the water is only four feet deep. Once the water warms above 55 degrees residents can purchase food for them at the reception desk in the Town Center.

Q: How has the size of Meth-Wick’s campus grown over the years?

A: In 1961, Meth-Wick Community was one building with 158 rooms on a 26-acre campus. Today, it consists of 33 buildings with 372 residences on a 68-acre campus. Then and now, Meth-Wick is an innovative and special place to live and work.

Q: If you were giving a tour of campus, which spaces would you make sure to point out?

A: A unique feature of Meth-Wick is the park-like campus setting and the multiple choices of residential homes. Enhancing the physical choices are the numerous wellness and recreational offerings throughout the community. Town Center’s fitness, coffee, library, and Key Club areas are key Meth-Wick benefits, as are the dining rooms, libraries, and common spaces at Greenwood Terrace and Deer Ridge.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: Since starting here, the most enjoyable part of my job has been working with staff and contractors from concept to execution for numerous projects. We’ve implemented campus-wide TV and internet; converted studios to one- or two-bedroom homes and created new housing areas like duplexes and condo buildings. One of Meth-Wick’s key strengths is working with residents to make sure their home is remodeled to meet their needs. Sometimes that means they choose a new color of paint for the walls but other times it means a complete remodel of their new home.

Q: Talk to me about landscaping. What’s the process for deciding what to plant every year?

A: Every spring, after removing the road sand and completing a general cleanup of the grounds, hundreds of annual flowers are planted throughout campus. There is a different theme planned each year by the landscaping team. As soon as weather permits, the two residential garden areas are tilled for planting as well. Spring is also the time to plant more trees to maintain the high diversity on campus. Most of the trees are donations by residents and family members.

Q: One last question. Tell us about the goats!

A: Our wooded low maintenance areas are generally left to nature’s care. Some areas occasionally need to be cut back but are too steep for our equipment. For the past few years, a tribe of hired goats have come to the rescue. We rent up to 40 goats at a time to eat their way through the brush. They have proven to be a popular attraction while they’re here and residents have donated the cost. They do an excellent job of chewing everything to the ground.

This article is part of the “Building on Innovation” series celebrating Meth-Wick Community’s 60th Anniversary serving older adults in Cedar Rapids. From 1961 to today, Meth-Wick has been an innovative leader in the senior living market. We will be exploring this theme throughout the year on our blog.