New Joint Venture Aims to be Best of Multifamily, Senior Living

Generations at Agritopia Living Room - Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

A recently formed joint venture between an Arizona-based senior living operator and a multi-family housing developer from Michigan plans to bring several new luxury-style communities to the Phoenix metropolitan area in the years to come.

Last week, Phoenix-based operator Retirement Community Specialists, Inc. (RCS) announced it would join forces with Investment Property Associates, LLC (IPA), a multi-family developer in Michigan and Arizona, forming a new joint venture under the same umbrella company, IPA, LLC.

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While both organizations will continue to operate under their respective names, RCS and IPA now operate together under the direction of a combined executive team and Board of Directors, including the four partners of IPA and RCS President Eric Johnston.

The entry of new participants into the senior housing space continues to add to the market’s frothiness, while also simultaneously spurring concerns among lenders hesitant to finance development of unestablished players. The partnership between RCS and IPA, however, is putting those concerns at bay.

“As the last 2-3 years have gone by, it became more and more evident that both of our values, beliefs and vision were very similar—that we could build a relationship going forward that would focus on the development of senior living and multi-family housing,” Johnston told SHN.

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The need to step away from being predominantly a fee management company also factored heavily into the decision to pair with a developer

RCS currently has three communities in operation under its belt throughout Arizona in Maricopa and Yavapai counties, namely The Springs of Scottsdale, Alta Vista Senior Living located in Prescott and Generations of Agritopia, the most recent endeavor of the joint venture.

Under the joint venture, the terms of which were not disclosed, RCS will provide the senior housing operational knowledge and background that will complement IPA’s in-house development expertise, including the company’s experience with project financing, obtaining land entitlements, along with pre-architectural planning and design.

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“Together is where we’ll play a big role,” Johnston says. “We add the experience that differentiates senior housing from multi-family housing.”

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

The companies first came together in 2012 to develop Generations at Agritopia, a 118-unit independent, assisted living and memory care community that opened in Gilbert, Ariz in July.

Developed under the companies’ flagship “Generations” brand, Agritopia will be joined by another project, Generations at Ahwatukee, which will break ground April 2015 in the Phoenix village of the same.

Agritopia and Ahwatukee embody the prototypical vision IPA holds for its future senior housing developments, which will also carry the Generations name.

The typical Generations design, Johnston says, will consist of 130-135 units within a two-story structure, with about 40-42 units of that total count catering to memory care and the remaining balance being an integrated independent living and assisted living type of model.

Depending on the scope and size of the developments, IPA estimates it will spend $30 million to $35 million per project, each of which will be located in the metro Phoenix, Maricopa County area.

Developed with the help of Thoma-Holec Design, a national senior-centric firm headquartered in Mesa specializing in high-end interior design, Generations at Agritopia features a number of amenities familiar to many newer senior living communities of today, as well some other distinctive characteristics.

Restaurant-style dining, a bistro, beauty salon/barber shop with day spa services, fitness and wellness center and movie theater may be some of the more run-of-the-mill amenities commonly found at communities nationwide, but perhaps Agritopia’s most distinguishing features are its wine cellar and designated tea rooms where residents can share intimate moments with friends, family and each other.

“We don’t like building communities and putting a wall around them to seclude seniors,” Johnston says. “Instead, we want it to be their home that’s designed for them and have things that attract friends and families to come visit.”

To enable such desires, Agritopia also features guest rooms for out of town visitors, community-wide Wi-Fi, along with outdoor patios and courtyards for additional recreational opportunities.

But while not all Generations communities may feature the exact same amenities, future projects can expect many similar offerings as others, depending on the scope of the development and available land, Johnston says.

So far, the joint venture has five projects on deck that will either be operating or ready to open by fall 2018.

Written by Jason Oliva

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