After more than 60 years in the business of plant growing, Harold Greer has decided to trade in his work shoes and worn-in flannel for something a little more comfortable: retirement loafers.
Greer Gardens, owned by Greer and founded by his father in the 1960s, is a 14 acre plot of land that is home to more than 1000 rhododendron plants along with hundreds of Japanese maples in addition to various other plants.
Greer, 67, was immersed in plant culture at a young age. He began helping his father at the age of seven and ultimately cultivating his father’s hobby into a lifelong passion and successful business. Along with maintaining a thriving business, Greer has also enjoyed great success in the plant-growing sub-culture he is apart of. He held the presidential seat of the American Rhododendron Society (ARS) for 26 years – longer than any other president – and is renowned as one of the world’s foremost experts on Rhododendrons.
But with the majority of his life dedicated to his business, Greer is making the necessary moves to pursue a more relaxing lifestyle without moving too far.
“The plans for this particular piece of property (Greer Gardens), at this point, is a retirement village,” said Greer.
Greer and The Springs Living, a retirement community contracting company, are in the latter stages of finalizing a deal that would turn the 14-acre Greer Gardens into an all-encompassing retirement community.
The future retirement vista will offer several types of abodes for all levels of retirement. According to Benjamin Wilkins, a public relations representative for The Springs Living, a third of the acreage is planned to be used for a three-story building containing apartments for assisted living and memory care patients with a full staff.
“We want this community to be as fully functioning as possible,” said Wilkins. “It is a multi-faceted area we’re trying to create.”
Outside of those 5 acres small, individual homes owned by the community will be built, according to Greer. Staying true to his lifelong passion, Greer mentioned that a small portion of the current garden area will remain in tact and developed into a park.
“The emphasis is not on ‘end of life’,” said Greer, “It’s not some place to go to die; it’s a place to go to live.”
A land-locked park near the current Greer Gardens has also been brought up in the planning stages of this community. City officials are urging The Springs Living to include this downtrodden park in their plans. The park, once re-developed, would allow for a larger recreation area in the retirement community; something Greer sees at vital.
“It’s important to me that people don’t see coming here as the end of the road,” said Greer, “but rather just a new, enjoyable chapter of their life.”
Not only are both parties involved in this deal optimistic about the forthcoming development but there has also been positive feedback from residents in the area. The Goodpasture Island Road neighborhood area seems looking forward to the development of a rather undeveloped area.
“It will be nice for the area to get a facelift,” said neighborhood resident Jessica Owens, “it will make living in the area just that much better and more enjoyable. We’re overdue for some new amenities.”
Retirement communities, on the whole, have a very standard set up and function. Most offer all-inclusive amenities that appeal to the elderly and their families as loved ones age. The standard seems to be hard and fast among most communities: a place where people of a certain age can live and enjoy life with like-minded people with generic park areas, cuisine and activities. They usually offer seminars or groups one can be apart of once entering the community that range from Tai Chi to musical performances. Essentially, retirement villages take the shape of summer camp for kids – but that is where Greer Gardens will differ.
The Springs Living and Harold Greer have coinciding ideas about the blueprints behind their soon-to-be new retirement community. Whereas other assisted living areas are just that – assisted living – Greer Gardens seeks to be an area for people to go to continue living life on their own terms. This is not the end of the line for incoming residents but rather just a new chapter in their book of life. Greer’s focus is to allow elderly people a sanctuary in which they can be around people with similar interests and tastes.