COLUMBUS — Prairie Village Retirement Center is scheduled to begin a multimillion-dollar expansion and remodeling of its assisted living and independent apartments and common areas in March.

The project headed by Sampson Construction of Lincoln will add new wings to the north and south sides of the existing facility at 3000 39th Ave. It's expected to be completed in a year to 18 months.

“We’re adding 17 apartments,” said Administrator Leslie Tenski, noting that the retirement center is at full capacity now with 64 residents in 63 apartments.

Those existing one- and two-bedroom and studio apartments have the capacity to accommodate 80 residents, Tenski said.

The administrator said the new housing wings are an answer to a dilemma that confronts many seniors. In many cases, they have a choice between living in a home or apartment with no access to important services and socializing, or they could move into a nursing home and pay for services they don't need.

“As the population gets older, we saw a need for seniors to have (more access) to a comfortable place to live,” Tenski said.

The retirement center is built on one level, creating an inviting atmosphere for seniors who have trouble with stairs or elevators, and features attached garages for those who still drive.

“Those are good selling points for residents,” Tenski said.

Prairie Village’s assisted living apartments are at capacity right now, with waiting lists for any openings. The facility has two vacant independent living apartments, but there are residents already lined up and ready to move in.

Prairie Village, the only nonprofit senior living facility in Columbus and the surrounding area, late last year was loaned some of Platte County’s tax-exempt status by the county board of supervisors. The tax-exempt status allows the center to secure lower-cost financing from lenders for the project.

The cost savings are passed on to residents for housing and services, Tenski said.

“We pride ourselves on being the lowest-cost provider in the area with high-quality housing and services,” she said.

In addition to the added housing units, Prairie Village construction plans call for major remodeling of the common areas, including the activity room, dining room, lobby, offices, pickup area and other spaces.

The retirement center marked its 25th year at the location with an open house celebration on Thursday evening.

When Prairie Village was built 25 years ago, the site along 39th Avenue was on the edge of town, with plenty of open space around.

“We were the first ones here 25 years ago,” said Tenski, adding that the retirement center has watched as widespread townhouse development has taken place on neighboring properties over the years.