Solving the Senior Housing Middle-Market Crisis

article originally featured in Plante Moran Living Forward, Senior Housing News

Senior Living for Less

Existing developers like Drever Capital Management and Bridgewood Properties have developed a less-expensive senior housing option in major markets like Austin and Atlanta.

Among development companies, there are few actively targeting the void for middle-market senior housing by offering a “light” version of the existing model.

This off-price housing looks and feels a lot like the high-end senior housing that runs about $3,600 per month on average, but is offered at 10% to 20% less by controlling development costs and operating costs.

For some, the model has worked well, but developers agree that controlling costs to the extent needed in order to offer the product widely is a great challenge.

Houston-based Bridgewood Property Company recently completed its first lower-cost senior living community, located in the greater Austin, Texas, area. The company has three additional projects of this type in various stages of development—with success so far in its completed community—as well as numerous high-end developments completed and in progress in the sector.

Monthly rents for consumers in the off-price communities are roughly $1,000 to $1,500 less than for the developer’s high-end urban properties.

“It’s still not what I would call ‘inexpensive,” says James Gray, Bridgewood’s founder. “It’s still a challenge to get the price down, but we are certainly renting for a lot less [than the high-end communities].”

A focus on independent living may be one key to success. The community has 80 independent living units, 24 assisted living units and 22 cottages, all on nine acres in greater Austin, Texas.

The company has reduced construction and operating costs by roughly 20% in a variety of ways, Gray says.

“We find there’s a lot of space not utilized except for two hours per day,” Gray says of the traditional model. Capitalizing on that finding can help reduce the building footprint by 20% across common areas, he says.

The initial success of the property already developed will serve as a prototype for the middle-market program going forward—in which there are several communities in various stages of development.

The Good Son

by Carole Keeney Harrington
Intown Magazine March/April 2017

Jim Gray’s 93-year-old mother must say to all her friends and family, “What a good son I have.” Every day he works, it’s his mother’s needs he considers – and those of fathers and anyone else who wants a comfortable life with style and ease. After 20 years building and managing exclusively for seniors through the transitions of their later lives, Gray is still inspired by what he does.

“I have a passion about it,” he says of his commitment to provide high quality living space for seniors. “I consider it a calling, and I love architecture. For me, this is not just a building. It’s a lifestyle. I think we are actually extending lives. It’s a combination of a career and a passion.”

The “villages” he has developed cater to the changing lifestyles that come with maturity and the desire to live life freer of daily chores and upkeep. His latest, a luxury collection of residences, the Village of River Oaks is at 1015 S. Shepherd Drive is in the neighborhood from which many of his residents will come, most within three miles, previous experience shows. The property, a 1.8-acre tract, formerly owned by R.R. Donnelly, the law book publisher, was acquired in 2011 for $8 million dollars.

The community offers a continuum of care so residents can stay for as long as they want, moving among the three levels as needed – independent living, assisted living and memory care. The Independent living units are already 50% leased. By April, the anticipated opening date, it is expected 70% of those spaces will be taken.

“Our program is to build in the neighborhoods where seniors and their children live,” Gray said. “It’s unique to have a senior’s site in the densely populated urban core. When we looked at the five mile radius around the site, it was clear this market in close proximity to Houston’s fine arts, theater district and one of the top medical centers in the U.S. was very much underserved in quality senior living options.”

Demographics show that there is and will be a pent-up need of baby boomers for senior lifestyles. The 76 million boomer cohort began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for 18 years at the rate of 10,000 per day. By 2029, when all of the boomers will be 65 years and over, more than 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be 65 plus. Although the number of boomers will decline through mortality, this shift toward an increasingly older population is expected to endure.

Boomers have lived through some of the most affluent years of the U.S. economy. They buy larger homes and expect high quality finishes such as granite counter tops and upgraded flooring, plus all the amenities. At Village of River Oaks, these amenities and more include an indoor heated pool, a fitness center, a movie theater, outdoor terrace, arts and craft studio, library, town hall and bistro/lounge, plus additional socialization areas to encourage interaction among residents.

“I designed the building with my mother in mind,” Gray said of the Village of River Oaks. “She loves lots of activities and friends. The funniest suggestion she made was, ‘Make the toilets higher.’” And so they are. Walk-in showers also are available. Other safety features in the eight-story building include an entirely concrete structure that will not burn, fire doors that close automatically if needed and wiring throughout the building to receive emergency signals. A key fob will be needed to enter the building and the three-level garage has a secure gate. Valet parking adds to the convenience, and there is no tipping allowed.

Gray’s history reveals his steady commitment to seniors and to the people who are on his team. Glenn House of House Partners has been his architect for 20 years. The Village at River Oaks is the latest of 25 senior living communities Gray developed in the Midwest and Southeast and now in the Southwest. As founder and president of Bridgewood Property Company, his organization currently has 10 properties and manages five others under Retirement Center Management. The Village of River Oaks is a joint venture with Harrison Street Real Estate Capital.

Gray’s role at Bridgewood Property Company includes strategic, financial, and marketing operations. Gray previously served as president of Cypress Senior Living, Inc. that developed and managed senior living communities across the U.S. Brand assets were valued at more than $300 million and included more than 2000 units. He also served as managing director for Trammell Crow Company, where he was responsible for the Industrial Division of the Houston, Texas, office. Gray received his undergraduate degree in commerce and accounting from Washington Lee University and a master’s of business administration from the University of Texas.

The Village at River Oaks Information Office is open in the BBVA/Compass Bank Building, 2001 Kirby Drive, Ste. 370, on the corner of San Felipe and Kirby Drive. Priority reservations mean future residents can select a premium home and lock in special pre-opening prices. Rentals start at $3,600 for a one-bedroom and up to $6200 for a two bedroom, two two-bath plus study. Assisted living costs are from $4,295 for a studio up to $7,300 for a two bedroom, one bath apartment. Memory care starts at $5,400 up to $9720 for a private space. For more information, call the office at 713-952-7600.

Senior Living Spotlight

Article originally featured in Houston Medical Times April Issue 2017

Senior well being, mental engagement, and wellness is an ongoing topic in the Houston Medical Times, we were interested in asking Retirement Center Management (RCM) President James D. Gray about his passion for developing luxury communities for seniors.

HMT: How did your career evolve?

James Gray: After receiving a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Texas, I was fortunate enough to get a job in the 80’s with Trammel Crow Company leasing warehouses in Houston. I loved Trammel Crow and eventually became a partner over the Houston industrial real estate division. However I departed from the company in the 90’s when the development markets became tough and Trammel Crow was forced to adjusted accordingly as a response. I joined another Trammell Crow partner who was forming a real estate investment fund, through from this union and fund, we decided to explore the senior living industry. It occurred to us that the industry was still in its infancy and with the demographic bubble headed in the right direction as the baby boomers aged; it would be a good time to enter this unique market. We talked to dozens of industry providers and toured hundreds of facilities until we finally determined that the best opportunity for us would be based on our skill set and limited senior living experience was in the independent living sector. We formed Cypress Senior Living in 1997 and proceeded to develop and manage a portfolio of 2250 units in 9 markets, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. That portfolio was sold in 2006 when I started Bridgewood Property Company as an investment vehicle to continue developing senior living communities. Through Bridgewood, the emphasis shifted to include assisted living and memory care along with independent living focus of the past. Bridgewood’s management company, Retirement Center Management, and current portfolio includes 16 communities representing nearly 2500 units of independent, assisted and memory care.

HMT: What’s currently under development?

James Gray: I would have to say River Oaks, Triangle and Southampton.

HMT: What makes you different from the other developers?

James Gray: A lot of things distinguish us from other senior living developers. Some of the items to mention include:

  • Bridgewood’s ability to customize each development to fit the particular needs and desires of the senior population in and around the site. No two buildings are alike.
  • We own and manage our own communities so there is not a separation between ownership and operations. Thus, we can be imminently more responsive to residents’ requests and needs.
  • Bridgewood has been developing senior living communities in excess of 20 years and is not “new” to the industry. Thus, we have two decades of experience that has taught us what is right and not right for our residents in our developments.
  • Bridgewood has a primary focus on quality. We desire to be the best; not the largest.

HMT: Would you describe RCM Senior living housing as Luxury?

James Gray: Many of our communities are luxurious and considered to be the finest in the respective market, but we also have plenty of properties that are still of the highest quality but not in price. Regardless, all RCM properties actively seek to provide luxury care and service to each resident.

HMT: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

James Gray: I’m pretty predictable; no major surprises. I actually love to work and consider it a blessing to be able to everyday. My family would tell you I’m a neat freak.

HMT: How do you know when an elderly loved one is ready for assisted living?

James Gray: One obvious answer is when you observe that they are encountering “struggles” with some of the everyday components of living such as dressing, walking, driving, etc. However, for independent living, it is often based on a change of life event such as a temporary illness or death of a spouse.

HMT: Once someone has identified that long-term care is necessary for a parent, what is the best ways to approach having that initial, difficult conversation?

James Gray: It is best to have a discussion about the benefits of a change and how this will enhance their lives. It is important to speak in terms of positives such as a move will eliminate the daily hassles of cooking, cleaning and driving and replace them with a care free living arrangement with everything that is needed within a short distance of their home. The benefits that can be observed include being around an abundance of friends for socialization as well as having the solitude of one’s home at the same spot. In addition, having the peace of mind of knowing that if one does need any help, then it is right there when needed. Life will be fun and engaging again. This allows one the opportunity to live life well.

HMT: How can someone be confident that they are placing an elderly loved one into a good retirement community?

James Gray: Always visit and stay for lunch or dinner. Watch the residents and visit with some if possible to see if they are happy. If so, then it is a good spot. If not, leave quickly.

HMT: For families currently considering assisted living, do you have any recommendations for people they could talk to about the process?

James Gray: The best informed person is generally someone who has just gone through the process themselves such as a friend or neighbor. Visit several communities and discuss with the Marketing or Executive Director. For the most part, the industry is very compassionate and all want to help a family find the right spot for their family member. We often refer potential clients to other communities, if we feel the prospect is best served elsewhere for various reasons. Also, we generally receive referrals as well.

HMT: Personal?

James Gray: I am married to my wife, Franny. We have 4 boys with one being out of school and working fulltime in Atlanta, two are in College at the University of Georgia and University of Virginia, respectively, and the last is currently in middle school. 

Luxury senior living coming soon to Rice Village

Bridgewood Property Company announces luxury senior living coming soon to Rice Village.

The Village of Southampton, a luxury senior housing community, is projected to begin construction 1 block from Rice Village in late 2017. The community is being developed by Houston-based Bridgewood Property Company. Jim Gray, as founder and owner of Bridgewood, has focused exclusively on developing senior living communities for more than 20 years. In addition to the development, Mr. Gray’s management company, Retirement Center Management, will be responsible for the operations of The Village of Southampton upon completion of construction.

The Village of Southampton will have seventeen floors of apartment homes with beautiful skyline views of Downtown Houston, Rice University, Herman Park and The Texas Medical Center. The state-of-the-art senior housing community is expected to be completed in 2019, bringing independent living, assisted living and memory care options to the Rice Village neighborhood.

“It’s unique to have a senior’s site in the densely populated urban core, particularly within a well-known area minutes from The Texas Medical Center, Rice Village, Hermann Park and religious institutions,” said Mr. Gray. “When we looked at the five-mile radius around the site, it was clear that this long-established Houston submarket was very much underserved in quality senior living options.”

The Village of Southampton will serve the residents of Southampton, West U, Bellaire, Rice University and Braes Heights. The Village’s premier location and close proximity to Rice University will provide the opportunity for the community to have an educational exchange program and keep residents engaged with the academic and athletic programs at Rice University. The Village of Southampton amenities will include an indoor heated pool & spa, a fitness center, a movie theater, full-service salon, outdoor terraces, secured garage parking for residents and guests, valet and concierge services, formal & private dining, Bistro and sky lounge/bar with numerous additional living areas to encourage socialization and ensure that residents Live Life Well®. Shuttle service to the Medical Center will also be provided.

“We are excited about our plans for The Village of Southampton and expect to receive positive response from prospective residents and adult children who live in the area and are looking for a seniors’ facility in close proximity to their longstanding neighborhoods, friends and families,” said, Lynn Wallace, Sr. V.P. of Sales & Marketing for Retirement Center Management.

To learn more please contact Lynn Wallace at the Retirement Center Management office at 281-996-0101.

Spring Creek Village added to Bridgewood & RCM communities

Bridgewood Property Company and Retirement Center Management of Houston, Texas have acquired Spring Creek Village Assisted Living and Memory Care located in Spring, Texas. Spring Creek Village originally opened in 2013, features 60 spacious Assisted Living apartment homes and 48 private Memory Care Suites. Its perfect location, beautiful landscaped courtyards, unique architectural design and luxury interior décor was the ideal addition to the expanding Bridgewood Property Company & Retirement Center Management portfolio.

Spring Creek Village is located at 20305 Holzwarth, Spring, Texas 77388.

The Spring Creek Village community is designed for seniors who need some assistance with daily activities. Residents enjoy chef-prepared meals, housekeeping, transportation, and social activities. Support is provided by a well-trained staff, including licensed nurse for medication assistance and supervision. The needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss are also served in a cozy secured neighborhood built upon a person-centered care philosophy that gives residents a sense of security, comfort, dignity and well-being.

“We are very excited to introduce Spring Creek Village Assisted Living and Memory Care as our newest edition to the RCM family,” says Jim Gray, President of Retirement Center Management. “Today’s seniors are very savvy and their expectations are high. Our residents and families want what we all want—to Live Life Wellᵀᴹ. Our team at Spring Creek Village is committed to providing excellence in service, an experience that exceeds your expectations, and a home where your well-being is our passion,” said Gray.

 

To learn more about the community and to schedule a personal tour, please contact the community at 281-257-2299.  Our visit them online at www.springcreekvillage.com.

The Village of The Heights

Village of The Heights grand opening

Bridgewood Property Company & Retirement Center Management announce the Grand Opening of The Village of The Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care in Houston, TX

Bridgewood Property Company and Retirement Center Management of Houston, Texas are proud to announce the opening of The Village of The Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care located in Houston, Texas. The Village of The Heights contains 82 spacious Assisted Living apartment homes and 21 private Memory Care Suites.

The Village of The Heights is located at 1407 Studewood, Houston, Texas 77008.

“We are very excited to introduce The Village of The Heights to Houston and especially to the surrounding Heights community,” said Jim Gray, Owner.  “We don’t just care for our Residents – we care about them and want to help them Live Life Wellᵀᴹ. Our team at The Village is committed to providing excellence in service, an experience that will exceed expectations, and a home where their well-being is our passion,” said Gray.

The Village of The Heights community is designed for seniors who need some assistance with daily activities. Residents enjoy chef-prepared meals, housekeeping, transportation, and social activities. Support is provided by a well-trained staff, including a licensed nurse for medication assistance and supervision. The needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss are also served in a cozy secured neighborhood built upon a person-centered care philosophy that gives residents a sense of security, comfort, dignity and well-being.

About Retirement Center Management

Retirement Center Management (RCM) provides outstanding senior living communities in Texas and Oklahoma. With 30 years of experience in commercial real estate development and over two decades focused exclusively on senior living communities, the management team has developed and managed more than 3500 independent, assisted living, and Memory Care living units, representing more than $750 million in asset value. RCM property brands include Carriage Inn, Village on the Park, Spring Creek Village, The Village of Tanglewood, The Village of The Heights, The Village of Meyerland and The Village of River Oaks branded communities each targeted to potential residents in their surrounding communities.

To learn more about the community and to schedule a personal tour, please contact the community at 713-802-9700. Or visit them online at www.villageoftheheights.com.

HBJ reveals 2013 Landmark Award winners

The Houston Business Journal revealed the winners of its 2013 Landmark Awards at a gala and dinner April 11 at the Houstonian Hotel.

The Landmark Awards recognize real estate projects that have made a significant impression on the Houston landscape. A panel of judges selected and placed the finalists into categories based on their applications.

The Village at The Woodlands Waterway was declared the Multifamily Project Winner.

Houston Biz Journal Article