Developer Blends Talent, Tech to Build Senior Living Brand

The oncoming silver tsunami has attracted a number of new players into senior living, including those from nearby industries such as multifamily and student housing. One such company, Chicago-based CA Ventures, recently took the dive into the senior living pool with a new division, blending its development talent with some well-known operations muscle—and using drone technology to draw attention to its properties.

While CA Ventures is well-known as a developer and operator of multifamily and student housing, CA Senior Living has been undertaking multiple developments, including a 14-property portfolio that will be managed by national senior housing operator Senior Lifestyle, and other projects to be operated by Pathway Senior Living.

Senior Housing News recently caught up with John Dempsey, chief operating officer of CA Senior Living, to learn more details about the company’s portfolio and how the new senior living business has hit the ground running.

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With a history dating back to 2004, CA Ventures has become a seasoned developer with strong name recognition. While CA Senior Living is still relatively new to the senior housing game, after being formed in 2015, it leveraged strong development partnerships with architects, financiers and others from the CA Ventures business to help the new division come together quickly, says Dempsey.

“We know who to go to and they know what our strengths are,” Dempsey says of the relationships that have helped the senior living branch get off the ground. “With groups who have presence in the marketplace, they understand how we do business. We dont waste a lot of time with them, and they know what we expect of them. That’s a huge component. That platform enables us to have a never-meet-a-stranger kind of thing. It’s true for attorneys and architects and all of that.”

CA Senior is also entering markets where it already has a presence through its other divisions.

“We have a very gigantic platform,” he says of the CA Ventures scale. “We work with student, office, residential and some other niche places. We’re in a bunch of markets across the country because of student housing. So, when I go into Seattle, I have a track record there. They know know us, what we do and what our strengths are. With groups who have presence in the marketplace, they understand how we do business.”

Still, CA Ventures is not limiting itself to the markets its knows best, and also is not taking anything for granted in terms of how well they will fit senior living, Dempsey says.

“We will be able to do the demographic research in the market, pick the markets we want to be in, pick the micro markets we want to be in, and then have the understanding of how our prototype fits into that property,” he says. “That will help us expedite the development process and deliver a product that is just outstanding in that marketplace.”

As its communities continue to come online, CA Senior is still developing what its product looks like, with ground-up construction a priority but room for some flexibility along the way. A newly redeveloped property in Olathe, Kansas, is a prime example of this flexibility, Dempsey says. CA Ventures and its operating partner on this project—Chicago-based Pathway Senior Living—have been able to leverage the former Holiday Inn’s location close to a hospital.

“The design of Olathe offered a lot of opportunities,” he says. “It wasn’t the way we wanted to go forward designing things. It served its purpose there, with proximity to a hospital, and there was an ability to create a model that was affordable for that community. The common areas supported the wellness concept.”

Those wondering what a CA Ventures community looks like may have a novel way of satisfying their curiosity; the company relies on drones to capture footage of its projects, with the twin goals of being able to monitor the work being done on the ground and market the buildings.

Looking forward, CA Senior Living hopes to continue expanding with a focused approach on development and forming operational partnerships with well-known and established senior living businesses.

“You have to have patience,” Dempsey says of the future. “You have to be somewhat flexible in those new markets as you come in because this business is evolving. Part of this business is that it’s very new. Although it’s been around forever, the demand is growing so it is in front of everyone’s minds. There’s no specific way that everyone views the product. You have to be nimble and patient, and disciplined.”

Written by Amy Baxter

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