Standing on the second-floor patio of what will soon be his new apartment, John Kennedy had a ready answer for his move next month to the new Fountaingrove Lodge in Santa Rosa.
"This place just felt right," said Kennedy, a retired college educator from San Francisco who was enjoying a view west to distant, forested hills.
Kennedy was among more than 600 future residents, elected officials and visitors who attended last week's gala opening of the three-story hillside lodge. The facility is billed as the nation's first gay and lesbian retirement community with continuing care.
The developer of the upscale project, Oakmont Senior Living, received considerable praise Wednesday from local politicians and other guests for a providing a luxury resort-like community tailored for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
"This is just beyond anybody's dreams," said Beth Reed, a Novato resident who has long followed the lodge's progress and intends to move there one day.
Reed, 70, said she and other lesbian and gay friends have talked for years about the need for such a project.
"None of us have any kids," she said. "Who's going to take care of us?"
Visitors extolled the details of the $52 million project. The craftsman-style lodge features 64 spacious apartments and six nearby bungalows, a theater with 22-plush leather chairs, a wine cellar, a pool and a second-floor dining room where residents can look south at Taylor Mountain.
State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, told guests the wood-and-stone lodge reminded her of Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel. "It's that beautiful," she said.
The Santa Rosa company's leaders, longtime builders Bill and Cindy Gallaher, already have developed roughly three dozen senior projects around the state. They continue to own and manage a dozen facilities, including the Varenna community in the same Fountaingrove neighborhood.