Best Repositioning 2017: Drab, Empty Community Gets Top-Drawer Amenities

The Kingswood Senior Living Community in Kansas City, Missouri, has been around for over 35 years—and, until recently, that fact was painfully obvious to both residents and management.

A couple of years ago, its occupancy was low—about 64%—and attracting new residents had begun to prove challenging, due at least in part to the community’s drab, dated appearance.

Then, beginning in 2016, the senior housing community was renovated and repositioned, and the finished product earned Kingswood the 2017 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Award in the “Best Renovation/Repositioning” category.

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In one fell swoop, Kingswood “went from dull 1970s to pretty-darn-good contemporary,” David Dillard, principal at D2 Architecture and a 2017 SHN Architecture & Design Awards judge, tells Senior Housing News.

And occupancy, much to operator Life Care Services’ delight, is “on an upward swing,” Jason Jorgenson, senior project development manager at LCS Development, tells SHN. LCS Development is the development arm of Des Moines, Iowa-based Life Care Services, one of the largest senior living operators in the country.

The Concept

For Life Care Services, the decision to update and reposition Kingswood was both financially motivated and necessary, suggests David Trinkner, senior associate at AG Architecture.

“They knew that because of the low occupancy rates, they had to do something,” Trinkner tells SHN.

Specifically, of the community’s 201 total apartments, 72 were unoccupied, David Kane, a senior design manager with LCS Development, tells SHN. Plus, there was a growing need in the Kansas City area for assisted living and memory care units—two care settings that Kingswood didn’t offer much of.

Accordingly, Life Care Services decided to completely eliminate 47 of Kingswood’s independent living apartments and convert the space into 54 assisted living and memory care apartments.

“We killed two birds with one stone,” Kane says. “We reduced independent living apartments to get occupancy up, and fulfilled a large demand for assisted living and memory care.”

At the same time, it had become clear to Life Care Services that future Kingswood residents would want more—and different—social spaces and amenities than those the community previously offered.

“Choices are someting that’s expected right now,” Trinkner explains.

So, in addition to adding new assisted living and memory care options, Life Care Services decided to revamp Kingswood’s common areas. St. Louis, Missouri-based Spellman Brady & Company acted as the project’s interior design firm.

“We did about 20,000 square feet of commons renovations,” Kane says. Additions included a new, ground-floor library; a surround-sound movie theater; a large, outdoor terrace; a meeting hall with state-of-the-art audio, visual and theatrical components; an Olympic-size swimming pool and whirlpool area; and updated exercise rooms.

“These are top-drawer amenities,” Dillard says. “I’m really impressed with the roster of amenities—usually I’m not.”

The Construction

The budget to renovate Kingswood was just under $17 million. Life Care Services enlisted LCS Development and AG Architecture for the job.

Construction began in 2016 and the project was completed in July 2017.  Overall, the remodel took longer than Life Care Services had planned.

“The project was extended by almost six months,” Trinkner says.

One of the biggest components of the renovation involved reconfiguring the main entrance of a commons area building so that it was no longer at the top of a hill.

“[Residents and visitors] would have to park in the parking lot and walk up a very steep ramp to get in the building,” Nick Herrick, project development manager at LCS Development, tells SHN.

To fix this, an addition was added onto the building to make it a two-story space with an elevator to the lower parking level, Trinker says. Overall, this lowered the grade about 12 feet.

“This is so mundane, potentially, to someone not in the world of [inside] baseball here,” Dillard says. “But it made, as you can imagine, walking around a thousand times easier. That’s a drastic step to making a better place.”

Though this process was fairly complicated, it wasn’t the most challenging aspect of the renovation.

“The biggest challenge that we all had to deal with was working around an existing building that was also an occupied building,” Trinkner says.

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The Completion

Since the completion of the project, occupancy hasn’t skyrocketed—but Life Care Services is still realizing plenty of other benefits.

“They are a bit behind [the occupancy] they’d hoped for coming out of the project,” Jorgenson says. “Currently, I think they’re at 108 occupied in independent living. They’re on an upward swing, though.”

Current Kingswood residents are thoroughly impressed with the renovations, according to Herrick.

“The greatest enjoyment that we have is seeing it’s way more active than it was before,” he says. Many residents are taking full advantage of the community updated exercise rooms and classes, he explains—and one resident has even said he doesn’t change out of his exercise clothes all day.

At the same time, Kingswood now looks, and feels, more expensive than it actually is.

“We’d refer to it as a market-rate community— but when you look at its amenities, it feels like high end community,” Trinkner says.

The Architecture & Design Award judges are confident that the new-and-improved Kingswood is exactly what the Kansas City market needs.

“I know the market, and what they’re after, and I think this is going to be a hit,” Dillard says.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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