Similar to retail developers, senior living housing developers focus on creating an appealing experience for their customers. Out are the sterile, utilitarian institutions of old, and in are senior living facilities that cater to baby boomers who are demanding more than the previous generation.
“This is similar to what we are seeing in the multifamily and office market, where unique amenities can set high-demand properties apart from their competitors in marketplaces that offer a number of options,” says Tyler Hietpas, project manager for L.F. Jennings, Inc., Falls Church, Va.
For its part, this niche sector of the construction industry is listening and responding to demographic trends. For example, while some boomers are staying close to the city, many others are finding solace in growing exurbs. One Washington, D.C., area case study is Trilogy at Lake Frederick—a community for ages 55 and up located in the Shenandoah Valley a mere 90 minutes away from the nation’s capitol. This upscale, resort-style community rests on the 117-acre Lake Frederick and includes a 36,000-square-foot club with an athletic center and a farm-to-table restaurant; plus it has numerous hiking and biking trails.
According to Jason King, general manager of Shea Homes, Trilogy’s parent company, the project became a labor of love for the company. “We entered the project and it was broken,” says King, adding that there was skepticism that it would even work.
Started in 2004 by another developer, construction on the development halted in 2008 when the bottom fell out of the real estate market. The Lodge, the centerpiece of the community, sat for five years, until Shea Homes gambled that it could make something of the 900-acre housing development.
“The club was a poster child for the housing recession,” King says. “Before the community opened up, it felt tired. We came on board and tried to figure out how to make this a Trilogy project.”
King had to redesign the entire project and try to envision how people were going to live and bring that club to life. King says one of the things Shea wanted to do was to make the club and surrounding community feel authentic. To that end, Shea settled on a theme: Valley Farm.
“The club is designed with a rustic farmhouse feel, such as sliding wood doors and apple crates from a nearby orchard, which allows it to fit in with the local community surrounding Winchester, Va.,” says Kevin Nearpass, vice president of operations at L.F. Jennings, Inc., which built the commercial amenities for the housing development.
Now, apple and cherry trees are sprinkled throughout the property and a garden surrounds the club.
Thanks to “an exceptional general contractor,” according to King, as well as extensive design teams, Trilogy at Lake Frederick has been named one of the top 50 Master Plan communities by Where to Retire magazine, and its Region’s 117 restaurant was named among Open Table’s Top 100 Places for Brunch in the country.
“Shea Homes has been receiving glowing reviews from community residents since the opening, and it has reported significant increases in home sales based primarily on the addition of the club to the community,” Nearpass says.
For those who decide to make Lake Frederick their home, the club is not the community’s only feature. In addition, residents can enjoy an art café complete with a pottery kiln, a card playing room with a full-size poker table and a kitchen
that is used to host cooking demonstrations that are then broadcasted to all Shea Homes communities throughout the country. The lower level of the club also includes a resident bar, golf simulator, billiards, pinball and shuffleboard.
“Historically, communities were built around golf courses,” King says. “Now golf courses are struggling. What we found is that food and drink is central to communities and this really speaks to the fact that people 55 and older don’t want to retire in a traditional way, but rather that they’re looking for new things to do and live life in a different way.”