Developer Looks to Expand on Success of Artist Niche Senior Living

The success of several niche senior living communities in and around Los Angeles is leading its developer and nonprofit partner to seek expansion opportunities beyond California. 

The Developer, Meta Housing, and its nonprofit partner, EngAGE, have successfully launched three California artist colonies for retirees in addition to  Meta’s dozens of traditional communities, most recently with the completion of a $70 million Long Beach community in July. And while the development of these niche properties has presented challenges similar to its non-niche senior housing developments, it also boasts strong success metrics that are leading Meta Housing to seek opportunities to take the model elsewhere. 

“The lease up time is consistent with the general senior housing market rate,” says Kasey Burke, Meta Housing executive vice president. “But once [residents] move in, they don’t ever want to leave. Turnover is very low and occupancy remains high. Once we fill up, occupancy rarely, if ever, drops below 95%.” 

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The community programming is geared specifically toward the arts, including classes, performances, a theater and computer labs. The general focus is on remaining active and engaged, which often leads residents to remain in the community rather than developing a need for more services such as those offered in assisted living. 

The company has successfully launched Long Beach Senior Arts Colony, a 200-unit, transit-oriented, affordable community, this year as well as the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, a 141-unit multifamily property completed in 2006, and the North Hollywood Senior Arts Colony, a 126-unit apartment community completed in late 2012.

Meta is now in discussions to take the artists colony concept elsewhere, with an eye on locations in North Carolina, Minnesota and Oregon. Development of two new sites is part of its plan for 2014. 

“We are interested in talking to people who know their cities better than we do,” Burke says. 

Meta is working with its existing non-profit partner, EngAGE, toward the expansion effort, and will maintain the partnership throughout its new developments. Financing for the projects is to be determined, though the most recent development in Long Beach included acquisition financing from Century Housing Corporation as well as tax credits and public partnerships with the city and state, which provided construction and permanent financing. 

“It’s challenging to raise funds for every project,” Burke says. “But the more the projects that season, the easier it will become. Now that we have projects and successes we can point to, we hope it will get easier.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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