In the pursuit of new property development, developers today are spending much time and money in working with the communities in which they are building senior living communities—which may be a departure from ways of the past.
One New York developer made recent headlines over public benefits included in a project proposal for a memory care community in Halfmoon, New York, including a $75,000 commitment toward a picnic pavilion, bike paths and trails, highway improvements and sewer updates with a potential additional $35,000 going to the 133-unit project.
Today’s developers are working with their surrounding communities, rather than against them, to sweeten the deal for both parties and provide public benefits to show their commitment.
“Historically, senior housing developers tried to convince communities that their projects would have ‘no impact’ on the community,” says George Mesires, partner at Ungaretti & Harris LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Finance and Restructuring Practice. “However, more and more, the best senior living developers are engaging the community leaders early to focus on the synergies that can be created when developers and communities collaborate.”
Those might include infrastructure improvements, as in the case of the Halfmoon development, or by incorporating mixed-use square footage, or even partnerships with local schools to connect students with senior residents.
It also simply spans appearance, which has proven effective in many recent cases, panelists told attendees of a SHN webinar last week.
“One of the keys for seniors housing is to make it attractive as a residential community,” said Debbie Laycock, managing director, ARA Seniors Housing citing landscaping as a simple example. But working with the community goes beyond a simple pledge; it also means communication. “Owners need to realize they need to be accessible.”
Benchmark Senior Living has working with the community is critical in its infill developments in the densely populated northeast.
“You have to incorporate [community] concerns,” said John Dragat, head of development for Benchmark. “Mitigate the impact and get people comfortable. In many cases you have to cooperate with the government and uncooperative neighbors.”
The community benefits can also provide a good platform for the senior living developer to continue working with its surrounding stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
“The goal should not be ‘how to be keep the senior living community within its own walls’ but rather ‘how do we integrate the senior living community beyond its own walls into the broader community,'” Mesires says. “…Such integration can lead to community benefits such as greater volunteerism, increased charitable giving, civic pride, and an active citizenry.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker