Ryan Cos., Grand Living Take Cues from Ritz-Carlton in New Developments

Two Minneapolis-based companies are pushing forward with a plan to open amenity-rich senior living communities in the Midwest, the Southeast and now, Texas.

There is an ongoing debate regarding whether senior housing is primarily a hospitality or a health care industry. For Grand Living, hospitality is the focus—a decision that led to an exclusive partnership with developer Ryan Companies US, Inc.

The two companies are collaborating on five senior living projects in development or under construction in Iowa, Florida and Texas. The strategic co-development and management partnership has so far yielded three Grand Living communities, in South Dakota, Iowa and Florida.


While the communities are unique to the areas where they are located, each one comes with resort-style amenities such as a pool, multiple dining venues, a library, and a theater of at least 150 seats, designed to host plays, musical acts and educational programming. Each planned community will come with between roughly 165 and 180 units, and cost about $45 million to $50 million develop.

“Our communities are fine resorts that are vibrant and engaging from the moment you arrive,” Grand Living CEO Dan Peterka told Senior Housing News. “Approximately 40% of [each of] our communities is common area.”

Hospitality focus


Underscoring its commitment to hospitality, Grand Living worked with Horst Schulze, the former president of the Ritz-Carlton company and founder of the Capella Hotel Group, to come up with a customer service program called the “Sterling Touch.” That program—inspired partly by Ritz Carlton’s motto of “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”—helps guide how the operator’s employees interact with residents, according to Grand Living COO Melinda Seifert.

“If we follow all of [Grand Living’s] principles … the residents will be happy, and it will help keep us at higher occupancies,” Seifert told SHN.

All of Grand Living’s communities include independent living, assisted living and memory care apartments and services. All of the units are licensed for assisted living when possible, meaning residents can receive similar care throughout the community without having to change rooms. Though monthly fees vary from location to location, Grand Living charges about 5% to 10% above market rate.

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Grand Living communities come with three restaurants with menus that change daily and weekly, a private dining venue for families, a club room with a private bar, and food delivery to residents’ rooms. Other amenities include art and activity studios, poker and billiards tables, pet grooming centers, gift shops and woodworking shops.

Health and wellness also plays a large role in Grand Living’s operational strategy. Each community comes with a “grand spa” similar to the kind one might see in a hotel or resort. The spa includes a fitness studio with a full-time fitness director, a group fitness studio for classes, a salon, swimming pools and offices where seniors can be seen by physicians.

Grand Living’s focus on hospitality appealed to Ryan as it searched for good senior living operating partners in 2014, according to Eric Anderson, vice president of development with Ryan Companies.

“We chose Grand Living after talking to multiple operating partners across the country,” Anderson told SHN. “We were looking for a group that had done this many times before, had an understanding of differences in codes and operations across different states, had a shared vision of what these communities would look like, and was willing to co-invest with us. What we liked about their vision was the lifestyle and amenities they bring to a senior community.”

Grand Living is one of Ryan’s four operating partners, along with Cadence Senior Living, Life Care Services and Great Lakes Management.

Expansion ahead

Looking forward, the companies’ plan is to open three or four Grand Living communities per year in states that include Georgia, Florida, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Those communities will be clustered to allow better operational efficiency.

“[Our] business strategy is to look for metropolitan statistical areas where we can do at least three Grand Living communities within a 90-minute drive between them for resource sharing,” Anderson told SHN.

Elsewhere in the U.S., other developers and operators are also going big on hospitality- or wellness-focused projects. That includes opening luxurious senior living communities and even holding etiquette training programs meant to attract more affluent residents. Still, there remains a divide between the senior living communities that focus on health care and those that focus on hospitality.

For Grand Living, however, hospitality remains the focus.

“I feel like what we’re promoting is, long-term, what seniors are going to be looking for,” Seifert said. “We’re attracting younger seniors because of the amenities we have, and we’re getting a lot more couples.”

Written by Tim Regan

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