Senior Living Providers Go Big on Regional Brand Development

Two senior living developers are going big on Florida with a combined nine-project pipeline that favors rental care continuum communities and a concerted effort to build and strengthen brand presence.

Rather than the entrance fee continuing care retirement community model, both Discovery Senior Living and an affiliation between REDICO and American House are opting for rental communities that typically offer independent living, assisted living, and memory care and are located near healthcare campuses.

They’re also taking a similar approach with locating clusters of communities in one geographic region.

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“Adult children are primarily involved in most of these decisions, so brand recognition is really important,” says Thomas Harrison, CEO of Discovery Senior Living. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the years building a brand. People know [one of our brands,] Aston Gardens, and they’re coming to know Discovery.”

Discovery is currently working on a five-project pipeline of communities valued at about $200 million. The communities will be located in Naples, Sarasota Bay, Palm Beach Gardens, Tampa, and Grand Haven.

American House/REDICO is another developer focusing on building a brand presence in a particular region. It has five communities in the works in Michigan, where it already has 35 communities under management. But it’s also working on four more projects in Florida—one that’s already under construction, two more expected to break ground this summer, and another in planning stages.

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“We had historically been a local senior housing company with a presence in Michigan,” said Dale Watchowski, president and CEO of American House and REDICO.

REDICO deals in a variety of asset classes and markets throughout the U.S, he says, and about seven to eight years ago REDICO—which already had positions in healthcare, primarily medical office buildings and hospitals—decided to enter the senior housing market.

“We went out, looked for an operator, and came across American House,” he says of the affiliation that occurred around six years ago. “When we became affiliated, it was always our intent to expand the geographic platform of our business, primarily because REDICO has down business in South Florida and knows that market well.”

There was another reason: Bob Gillette, the founder of American House, had retired and moved to Bonita Springs but retained his interest and involvement with the company he founded. His position in Florida gives the business “a great deal of comfort” as it grows its presence in that region, says Watchowski.

“We’re trying to build a brand in Southwest Florida,” he says. “If you look at the markets we’re building in—Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, and Estero—those four markets are very heavily populated by former Michigan residents. They’re comfortable with our brand, and what we want to do is capitalize on that brand recognition.”

The company’s Bonita Springs project, currently under construction, will have an initial 132 units comprised of 22 independent living units, 68 assisted living units, and 42 memory care units, but Watchowski says REDICO may add another 80 units.

The Estero community will have 194 total units: 54 independent living, 76 assisted living, and 64 memory care. A third site in Fort Myers will break ground in 2014 and a fourth in Naples is still in the planning stages. Most of the campuses will have around 200 units and are located near hospitals or medical communities, Watchowski says, adding that REDICO/American House intends to build three to four more communities in Florida next year.

“Our goal right now, because we are in Southwest Florida and have a strong history there as a company– we pick a market, and then our objective is to become a preeminent player in that marketplace.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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