Best of Assisted Living Design 2016: New Player Makes a Mark

When Rosemark at Mayfair Park opened in May 2016, Denver not only got a new design-forward assisted living and memory care option, but the senior living industry got a new operator.

“We’re kind of control freaks,” jokes Anne Rosen, principal at Rosemark Development Group, the firm behind the project. “We started out with a third-party operator, and our ideas and business practices and thought processes over time did not match up with theirs. We decided to build our own [operating] team.”

The guiding principle for the building design and its operating practices was, in Rosen’s words, “If my parents were going to live anywhere, is this where we’d want them to live?”

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The result is a property with an upscale residential aesthetic meant to appeal to baby boomers, featuring plentiful natural light, open spaces, and bright, bold colors. It also fits seamlessly within the Mayfair neighborhood, thanks to the building’s scale and materials.

“My daughter lives in Denver, so I had a leg up on what I would want to see in senior housing there, and this really hits the bull’s-eye,” says David Dillard, principal at D2 Architecture and a judge for the 2016 Senior Housing News Design Awards. “It’s a very fresh, new city, and they’ve embraced contemporary-style architecture. It’s showing up large and loud here.”

The Concept

The concept for Rosemark at Mayfair Park was largely inspired, and defined, by the real estate—a 2.5-acre in-fill site about five miles east of downtown Denver.

Rosen’s business partner, Mark Cytrynbaum, had owned the site for a number years, along with some of his associates. The development team began work on the site by renovating existing structures into a multifamily building, Avenue 8 at Mayfair.

Senior living emerged as the logical sister project, due in part to the need for such housing in the area; the idea also was supported by the existence of nearby services and amenities. National Jewish Hospital and Rose Medical (unaffiliated with Rosemark) are just over a mile away, and there is adjacent public transportation and a retail center.

To move forward with the senior housing project, Rosen and her colleagues tapped architecture firm Studio Completiva, which already had been working on the Avenue 8 project. While Studio Completiva had worked on senior housing in the past, it mainly had been in the independent living realm. This new project would be assisted living and memory care; but Rosen liked the firm’s strength in contemporary motifs, and architect Yong Cho was drawn to some of the challenging aspects of the design.

“To build assisted living in this area was really kind of tricky,” Cho says. “That was one of the things that intrigued us, how to build a fairly large structure in a single-family detached residential neighborhood.”

However it was to be accomplished, the project leaders wanted the end-product to be a graceful addition to the neighborhood while also pushing the boundaries of contemporary design in senior living.

“The design imperative was to strike this balance, and show that modern architecture can be warm and inviting and livable for residents,” Rosen says.

The Construction

To achieve these objectives, Studio Completiva created a design prominently featuring a rose garden courtyard.

“It’s an anchoring element, which orients all the public and communal spaces,” Cho says.

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The courtyard was constructed at a slight elevation from street level and facing south to ensure privacy and maximize sunlight, and with views from living units—surrounding the courtyard on three sides—in mind.

As a result of the south-facing courtyard, parking was situated on the building’s north side; because of specifics of the site, this prompted the creation of an “innovative drop-off area” to meet municipality requirements, says Cho. The roundabout serves as a water loop, emergency access, and parking access, and Cho believes it works well to anchor and frame the entry experience upon arriving at the building.

The height of the building and its exterior appearance also were carefully considered.

“The Mayfair neighborhood was built up, probably after the war, with a lot of ranch-style homes,” explains Cho. “We didn’t want this building to be clearly seen as the assisted living building.”

The building’s total height was kept to 36 feet, and brick and natural cedar siding was utilized to create echoes with the area’s architectural style.

To maintain the building’s height while including all necessary service and mechanical areas, the builders also put in a basement—not typical of more sprawling senior living communities on larger, suburban plots, notes Cho.

As for the interior, the courtyard was influential here as well.

“We made sure there were large windows, which made the courtyard sort of accomplish what Frank Lloyd Wright was trying to do, to bring the outside in,” Cho says.

Even areas not adjacent to the courtyard are filled with light; for instance, hallways terminate in alcoves with two-story high windows.

“We sculpted with light to create a sense of calmness around the building,” says Cho.

A feeling of spaciousness is achieved through hallways between 8 and 11 feet wide, and apartment ceilings reaching between 10 and 11 feet. The design also features an open floorplan, with one space leading into another.

“Part of the contemporary language is rooms that flow into one another,” says Dillard.

In addition to light, color plays a key part in creating Mayfair’s bright, modern ambiance. Bold, botanical colors were selected, both for aesthetic reasons and because they can help orient seniors with vision challenges, says the project’s interior designer, Lindsey Parsons, with Aneka Interiors Inc.

“Some of our base colors were blues and greens because they are appealing to a lot of people, but we did pops of color throughout,” she says. “We wanted something that feels lively, bright, and cheerful to set this project apart, because a lot of what’s out there right now is more traditional, neutral.”

Those “pops” of color also help differentiate spaces. For example, the bistro area has a teal wall, while a private dining area is done in a plum color.

Artwork was hand-chosen by Parsons, Rosen, and Aneka Kerlin, owner of Aneka Interiors. The three traveled to North Carolina to pick eclectic pieces suitable for the different areas of Rosemark, says Kerlin.

“Some of the spaces in the library have unique dog sketches that look like little library pieces,” she says. “The artwork is across the board. Every genre.”

Of course, construction never goes entirely according to plan, and a few members of the design team brought up a problematic fireplace off the main entry. Once framed out, it was “enormous,” says Parsons. So, that element was eliminated.

Cost pressures also were felt, given that construction labor costs have been increasing around the country, and particularly in places like Denver that have seen a building boom. Material prices also were increasing, Rosen notes.

“We had to think outside the box to meet the schedule keep the escalation in cost down,” Cho says. “For example, the framers came in [from out of town] and did the framing and left, because it was really hard to find good framers available for value at that time.”

The total development and construction budget came in around $19 million, Rosen says.

The Completion

At completion, the building encompassed 88 apartments, with amenities including a theater, library, billiards room, workshop, business center, clinic, and 500-square-foot fitness and physical therapy center. Rosemark at Mayfair Park was about 50% occupied nine months after opening, and the response has been highly positive from residents and family members, according to Rosen and Cho.

“I get comments from people that the building is very gracious and calming, and I think those are very, very positive things,” says Cho. “Those were our goals, to create a very gracious and calming environment and at the same time energizing it with spaces, details, lights, and colors so it’s not flat.”

Technology is another differentiator. The building includes door locks activated by fobs worn by those at risk for wandering, eliminating the need for keys or codes that can make a space feel imprisoning, says Rosen. It also is outfitted with QuietCare, a sensor system meant to discreetly monitor residents, providing data to facilitate wellness and prevent occurrences such as falls. Rosemark at Mayfair Park is one of the first assisted living communities in Denver to implement the GE technology.

“We had no experience in senior housing prior to this project,” says Rosen. “Some would say this would be a detriment to operations. I would say, no, we bring a fresh perspective to the business … we’re not recycling the same old experiences over and over.”

The Rosemark team is interested in growing, including through acquisitions, but don’t expect them to become the next assisted living behemoth.

“There’s this commodity perspective by certain developers that, I’ve got a building, I’ve got to stick it somewhere and make money for my investors, and do it over and over,” says Rosen. “Mark and I have no interest in that. Our interest is in building and operating a building that is responsive to our residents, family, and community. If we do it really well, then we’ll make money. But every project we do will be scaled to the neighborhood and community we go into.”

Written by Tim Mullaney

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