Reprint of original article published in Lake Minnetonka Magazine on June 5, 2023.
Story by Emily Gedde | Photography by Chris Emeott.
English Rose CEO Joshua Wert turns his childhood house into Oak Ridge assisted living facility.
When a Minneapolis man moved his 96-year-old mother from a nursing home to a newly opened assisted living facility in Minnetonka, he says her quality of life instantly improved.
Robert says when Oak Ridge assisted living in Minnetonka was suggested to him by a friend, he decided to check it out. As a new property of English Rose, a provider of professional and personalized care for people with Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, Parkinson’s disease and complex medical conditions, there was an opening in the six-bed facility. Within a week, Robert’s mother was in her new home. “This is such a beautiful place,” he says. “The staff are very loving and caring to my mom, and she’s much happier there.”
It’s that sentiment that drives English Rose owner and CEO Joshua Wert to do what he does. As a career businessman and entrepreneur, Wert loves serving his community and helping others. The Minnetonka resident purchased English Rose in 2020 and, shortly after, began looking for ways to serve a growing waitlist of clients. “So, I made a list of what I needed in a dream home to add to our English Rose properties,” he says. “The biggest thing I needed was six bedrooms on one level.”
One of the unique features of English Rose is that each of the six properties only has six beds. It helps create a personal, intimate feeling among residents and staff. Knowing the housing model Wert needed would be challenging to find, especially with a limited-inventory market, he began his search. He focused on the Minnetonka area, since several of English Rose’s clients are from the lake area. Wert wanted to secure a location that would keep them close to their most recent homes. “Families need support and help when loved ones start to require 24/7 care,” he says. “But they don’t want to be segregated or separated.”
The search continued to come up short until Wert says a “serendipitous moment” happened. His childhood home on Oak Ridge Trail in Minnetonka would be perfect for the next English Rose property. “It was exactly what I needed,” he says of the home. “I remember thinking if only there was something out there like my mom’s house. That’s when the light bulb turned on.”
Coincidently, as that idea was percolating, Wert’s mother, Lois Berman of Minnetonka, started voicing her desire to relocate into a more manageable home. “I’m in my 80s, and the upkeep was getting to be too much,” Berman says of the 3,651-square-foot property. “The house needed more love.”
The Next Chapter
Wert and Berman have a noticeably close relationship. As the two recalled events that led to Wert purchasing the home, they were able to laugh about a slight disagreement that popped up during the process—they couldn’t agree on a price. “I knew what I thought the house was worth, and my mom knew what she thought the house was worth, and there was quite a gap,” Wert says. “We could not come to terms.”
In the end, the mother-son pair worked through a broker, and it turns out that Berman’s price was more accurate. “I was just glad it worked out in the end,” Wert says. He adds that the first night he owned the home, he turned on every light in the house and played his music loudly—two things he was never allowed to do growing up. “The neighbors were probably worried it was so bright in the house,” Berman says.
Becoming Oak Ridge
Berman’s home was originally designed by an Edina-based architect, Arthur Dickey, and has gained some attention for its midcentury modernism. Wert says his mother always had an eye for art and design. “For me, I needed a home with details that would feed my soul as well as provide refuge and peace—a space made for longevity and life transitions,” Berman says of her original view for the home when construction began in 1970. “I wanted clear distinctions between public and private spaces and something that accommodated children as well as aging adults.”
The result was a design before its time, as many of the features are now best practices for creating optimal living spaces for aging adults or those progressing with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Beautiful accents, liberal use of wood, splashes of color and high-end, timeless materials bring in character to create an atmosphere that is both engaging and warm and entirely accessible inside and out. Clear cedar, cathedral ceilings and clerestory windows bring in natural light while maintaining privacy. Several decks, patios and gardens make for easy access to outdoor living and activities.
Thanks to Christian Dean Architecture and Dovetail Renovations Inc., based out of Edina, Oak Ridge now hosts six-private assisted living suites, some with shared bathrooms. The kitchen has been opened up to increase caregiver sight lines, and hardwood floors replaced woolen carpets to accommodate wheelchairs. Other than a touch of new paint, all of Oak Ridge’s architecturally-significant features remain intact, including the stunning double-sided stone fireplace.
“This home was a character in my upbringing,” Wert says. “It was so elaborately detailed. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to have my childhood home part of English Rose. It’s very emotional and warm. This home lived large in my life and to have it added on to my mission and vision of growing English Rose is very emotional. It’s probably the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever done in the business world.”
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