From Sears to Seniors: Mixed-Use Project Will Turn Mall Into Senior Housing, Care Site

A vacant shopping mall in upstate New York will soon have a second life, with senior housing and care setting the foundation.

Skyview on the Ridge in Irondequoit, New York, will include a $43 million, 157-unit senior apartment development from Pathstone Corporation, as well as an adult day care center from St. Ann’s Community. Both companies are based in nearby Rochester, New York.

Pathstone and St. Ann’s are the first two tenants confirmed for the redevelopment. The town of Irondequoit is also building a community center in the mall, after voters approved a $7.25 million bond issuance on July 30.

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Skyview on the Ridge highlights two growing trends in senior living: adaptive reuse of obsolete buildings; and incorporating senior housing as a component of mixed-use development.

With the senior population and demand for senior housing guaranteed to grow over the next 20 years, yesterday’s offices, hotels, schools and commercial buildings can be repurposed into the senior housing of tomorrow. Developers are embracing adaptive reuse as a way to combat a lack of available land and rising land costs that make it hard to secure prime sites.

Shopping malls such as Skyview on the Ridge, which opened in 1990, are ideal candidates for both adaptive reuse and mixed-use development. As brick-and-mortar retail struggles with pressures from e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, developers are turning to health care as a way to fill vacancies, increase foot traffic and create vibrant, live-work-play destinations that are essentially neighborhoods within neighborhoods.

The mall location is a prime location that, no matter if it wasn’t there, you would select the site to build housing because it’s close to services, the hospital, doctors, shopping — everything.

Pathstone Corporation Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development Amy Casciani

This dovetails with a broader trend within the health care sector to move services outside hospitals and doctors’ offices and into community settings, with outpatient centers moving into strip malls and retail pharmacies like Walgreen’s and CVS beginning to double as sites of care.

Given all these trends, it’s reasonable to expect that projects such as Skyview on the Ridge will become more common in the years ahead, and a growing number of older adults could soon be living where they once shopped.

Growing demand, solid location

Skyview on the Ridge was a left-field choice to build adult day care, St. Ann’s Community Assistant Administrator Bill Robinson told Senior Housing News. Robinson serves as the lead on the project. 

“We didn’t go searching for Skyview. It just came to us,” Robinson said.

St. Ann’s provides assisted living and health care services for the greater Rochester area. Its adult day care program, Home Connection, is a customized medical-based adult day program for seniors. St. Ann’s social workers tailor the programs to individual needs through meetings with patients and their families, and via orders from their primary caregivers.

St. Ann’s currently serves 30 residents of Irondequoit at its existing adult day care facility and is looking to double that number. The operator cannot accept new clients until an existing one drops out and, although there is consistent participatory turnover, open spots fill up quickly.

“The demand is there. We need to expand it,” Robinson said.

Senior housing development, adult day care, intergenerational living, mixed-use redevelopment The Dartmouth Company
The Skyview at the Ridge redevelopment in Irondequoit, New York will include a town community center.

Indeed, there is a growing need for senior housing and services in Irondequoit. The median age of its population is 44.2 years, roughly 10% higher than the metro Rochester area, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, with the 50-59 and 60-69 age demographics each accounting for 14% of the population.

But most of Irondequoit has been developed and there are few sites suited to build new senior housing, Pathstone Corporation Senior Vice President of Real Estate Development Amy Casciani told Senior Housing News.

Pathstone has a senior apartment complex in Irondequoit that is completely leased with a long wait list of interested tenants, and the population and growth projections indicate demand for senior housing will grow in the coming decade.

Pathstone and St. Ann’s looked for several sites before looking at Skyview on the Ridge, and were sold on being a part of the redevelopment after reviewing the geographic and demographic statistics for the area, Casciani told SHN.

“The mall location is a prime location that, no matter if it wasn’t there, you would select the site to build housing because it’s close to services, the hospital, doctors, shopping — everything,” she said.

The 62-acre site is centrally located near St. Ann’s Community headquarters, Rochester General Hospital, and anchor retailers such as Target, Home Depot, LA Fitness and Staples. Nearly 415,000 people live within a seven-mile radius of the site, as of 2018.

Complementary uses

Pathstone is no stranger to adaptive reuse. The company repurposed a school building in Albion, New York into senior apartments. Pathstone also redeveloped a portion of a former hospital in Canandaigua, New York into cooperative senior rental apartments.

Pathstone’s community at Skyview on the Ridge will be partly built in a space formerly occupied by a Sears department store. The company will also build an adjacent ground up building and connect the two via a skywalk.

The Sears space will be redesigned to include open courtyards allowing for natural light and ventilation, as well as connecting residents to the community center and other services inside the redevelopment.

The community will include mostly one-bedroom apartments along with a couple of two-bedroom units. The living footprints will be small, to encourage residents leaving their apartments and socially interacting with their neighbors. Amenties will include ample lobbies, sitting areas and a resident community room, Casciani told SHN.

Pathstone is partnering with regional health system, Rochester Regional Health to provide home health care services for residents. The company will allot half of its units for frail elderly renters who can access the health system’s services.

Future partnerships a possibility

With the Irondequoit community center as an anchor, both Pathstone and St. Ann’s see Skyview on the Ridge developing a true multigenerational destination, and having the three components under one roof will lead to organic interest by seniors and their families in the housing and services that will be available, as well as generate interest from retailers and companies looking to fill space.

We didn’t go searching for Skyview. It just came to us.

St. Ann’s Community Assistant Administrator Bill Robinson

Pathstone and St. Ann’s do not have a partnership in place, but that may change once the senior apartments and adult day care are operational. Although each agreed to be a part of the redevelopment around the same time, each are currently focused on securing the funding to build, and navigate the regulatory landscape to begin construction. And both companies see it as a natural fit.

“It makes perfect sense to offer services [to Pathstone residents] at a later date,” Robinson said.

Both Pathstone and St. Ann’s are required to file certificates of need with the New York Department of Health before construction can begin, a process that typically takes 2-3 months to be approved.

St. Ann’s hopes to present designs for its adult day care facility in the next six months and begin construction in Spring 2020, with a target opening date of Summer 2020.

Pathstone wants to begin building its apartments next summer and expects a two-year construction timetable, contingent on securing funding.

“We’re trying to take an asset in the community that is no longer [viable] and make it an asset again. We’re looking to meet the needs of the community where it’s located,” Casciani said.

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