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  • Gig Harbor’s Kensington Gardens expands. By Anneli

A Natural Addition

A Natural Addition

Occupying 27 acres in northwest Gig Harbor, Kensington Gardens is a labyrinth of sculptured hedges, topiaries, lush manicured lawns, and flowering plants and trees that mimics its London namesake. Within these gardens, people can be found reading in nature nooks, strolling the pathways past ornate fountains or boarding a passenger coach for a day of adventure.

Meanwhile, beyond the gardens in the Georgian Manor and Carriage House, others are practicing music, preparing lunch and relaxing by fireplaces. And while it sounds like a vacation destination, Kensington Gardens is anything but. It’s a resort living community for residents over the age of 55. Currently, the community has 11 residents living in either personalized care or independent living, but that number is about to get larger as the community is in the process of expanding. Construction has begun on new luxury residences—five villas and five cottages—that will offer 70 units for Baby Boomer-generation adults to live in luxury.

The addition to the community also includes plans for a putting green, tennis and pickle ball courts, music and art studios, and spa with saltwater pool and a Himalayan salt wall. A groundbreaking celebration for the new buildings was held on May 31. The first villa and cottage are expected to be completed next year. The remaining four villas and four cottages are set to be completed by 2023.

Susan O’Leary, Kensington Gardens’ chief operating officer, says the new spaces offer opportunities for her and the Kensington Gardens staff to be creative in meeting the needs of the community. She said the addition of art and music studio spaces came in response to a resident who wanted a space to practice playing his instruments. The pickle ball court came after a conversation with some future residents in Port Ludlow who asked about the 50-year-old sport that is now seeing a resurgence.

“Our members are choosing what they want their lives to look like,” she says. “Our future is a resort community where Baby Boomers and retirees can have the freedom to travel without the worry of home maintenance. Then, if they need care, we are here to provide that. We want our residents to age in place without having to move again.”

The new cottages and villas aim to be a community “for Baby Boomers and Beyond,” according to an April statement from Kensington Gardens, who are healthy and seeking a place to retire. When needed, cottage and villa residents can move from the resort community to the first floor of the manor or into the carriage house to receive more personalized care.

“Life should continue to get better,” Kensington Gardens co-founder and co-owner Kelly Watson says.

The new community is the most recent in the evolution of Kensington Gardens. The property was founded in 2007 by Kelly and her husband Mark as an event venue to host weddings and corporate events. But the couple was also caring for their aging family members, including Mark’s Grandma “Junebug” June, and couldn’t find what they wanted in a full-care retirement community. So, they turned their business into that vision. More than 250 couples were married on the grounds before it became a resort living community in 2012.

Kensington Gardens now has a Carriage House with five rooms for residents in need of round-the-clock skilled personalized services; six rooms on the first floor of the manor for personalized care; and another five garden balcony suites on the manor’s second floor for independent living. The Watsons kept the same commitment to service and people as they did when they hosted events and aimed for luxury, including purchasing a yacht for the members and offering fine dining for three meals each day.

“It’s the same kind of philosophy now as it was then: ‘How can I help? How may I help you have a good day?” Kelly says. “Because we’re privately owned, we have more flexibility to do it right.”

Susan adds the vision behind the community is a desire to be different and offer a standard of resort living that is uncommon in retirement communities. “We’re targeting those who are enjoying life and would like that to continue in a new community,” she says.

Kensington Gardens is currently accepting $1,000 deposits for charter members who would like to secure a villa or cottage unit. Informational lunch meetings about pricing, types of care and more are offered monthly for those interested in learning more about the new resort living community.

For information about future lunches, follow Kensington Gardens on Facebook. To RSVP, visit

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