Location, Location, Location Key to Senior Housing Community Placement in 2013

Senior housing developers are stressing the need to build new communities in established locations rather than in remote areas, as placement is critical for a development’s long-term success, said panelists at the Illinois Real Estate Journal’s Senior Housing Conference in Chicago last week.

An urban living project by architecture and design company Gensler emphasizes this developmental shift in senior housing, detailing an 80-unit affordable living facility for independent seniors on Chicago’s north side.

Located in the heart of the city’s gay and lesbian neighborhood, the “Center on Halsted” sits atop an already established community center of the same name. Next door is a Whole Foods supermarket and on the other end of the street sits an uninhabited police station, which Gensler panelist Rod Vickroy said will become an incorporated part of the housing facility.

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As a director at Gensler focusing on health and wellness practice, Vickroy’s discussion of the Center on Halsted project illustrates recent development direction of fitting senior living into the larger community.

“I see this as a trend in moving away from creating things at the city edge to being within the communities and creating trans-generational and very supported, integrated facilities,” said Vickroy.

Part of this developmental shift not only involves location, but design that makes residents feel as though they are not merely being “warehoused.”

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“Clients don’t want something that looks like a doctor’s office,” said BLDD Architects Principal Scott Likins.

Also the Co-Director of Senior Living Design, Likins stressed an importance in ample living areas to promote social well-being of senior housing residents. Citing Frank Lloyd Wright’s idea that the hearth is the heart of the home, BLDD’s concepts demonstrate communal living areas as must-haves for future projects.

By building facilities in highly populated areas, the amenities inherently become the neighborhood, according to Vickroy.

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The development shift to incorporate senior living facilities within the greater community is a product of the next aging generation’s desires, as Gensler conducted multiple engagements with prospective residents to understand what they are looking for in housing before devising its Center on Halsted project.

“In the future, people are going to seek their right place to age in place, somewhere that’s comfortable for them,” said Vickroy. “If these community-oriented facilities think hard about who they are serving and who wants to be a part of it, the success will follow.”

Written by Jason Oliva