Epoch Senior Living and its development partner, National Development, made a splash when they introduced the Waterstone brand in 2012. The first Waterstone building, located in the Massachusetts town of Wellesley, won the Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Award for Best Assisted Living, as well as the gold award for design from the National Association of Home Builders.
Epoch and National Development are continuing to expand the brand. Following the success of Waterstone at Wellesley, the companies developed Waterstone at the Circle (pictured above), which opened in early 2018. Waterstone at the Circle was created as part of a project to re-develop the historic Circle Cinema in Boston’s Cleveland Circle neighborhood. The new development includes both the Waterstone community and an AC Hotel by Marriott.
Now, Epoch and National Development are creating a community on the site of GE Capital’s former Stamford, Connecticut headquarters. Two other Waterstone developments are also in the works. These are located in White Plains, New York and Lexington, Massachusetts.
Waltham, Massachusetts-based Epoch is known for its Bridges memory care communities, which have been developed through joint ventures with National Development. There are nine Bridges communities, located in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Seeing a need for more independent living options in New England, Epoch and National created the upscale Waterstone model, National Development Managing Partner Ted Tye told Senior Housing News.
Their read of the market has paid off so far. There has been a waiting list at Waterstone at Wellesley almost since opening, and lease-up at Waterstone at the Circle has been “brisk” and is ahead of schedule, Tye said.
Capitalizing on an opportunity
Given its favorable demographics from an age and income standpoint, Stamford had been on National Development’s radar for a long time, Tye said. However, no suitable location appeared until recently.
“As the office market changes, consolidates and moves into more urban areas, suburban locations become more available, and that’s what happened with the GE site,” Tye said.
The former corporate campus stretches across 16.5 acres and includes two office buildings. National Development now owns 10 acres and one of the buildings. A local developer owns the rest of the land and the second building.
The plan is to knock down the existing building but keep the underground parking—a highly valued feature of any senior living property in the Northeast, given the region’s winter weather, Tye noted.
“The site has a lot of green space,” he said. “It has pathways and extensive, mature landscaping, and we’ll be able to save all that.”
Integration of indoor and outdoor spaces was a hallmark of the award-winning design of Waterstone at Wellesley. That community features landscaped patios, walking paths, a fire pit, gardens and a putting green.
The new building in Stamford is slated to include 95 independent living units and 35 assisted living units. Each level of care will have its own common areas and dining areas, and the overall look and feel will resemble a boutique hotel.
“Our typical resident is coming from a single-family home, so we try to deliver an experience that is what they’re used to, with fully-appointed designer apartments with beautiful kitchens and baths, and typically a balcony or good access to outdoor space,” Tye said.
National Development has recently started holding community meetings, to start working with neighbors in advance of the project going to a construction phase. The parcel of land is bordered by both an office park and single-family homes. Construction is targeted to begin next spring. Tye declined to share the project budget.
The other two Waterstone developments that are in process also have notable features. The White Plains project will mark the first New York community for the Epoch-National Development partnership. And the building in Lexington is going up right across the street from a Bridges memory care community that is also under development at the moment.
There is not a concerted strategy to co-locate Waterstone and Bridges buildings going forward, although if the opportunity to create a full-continuum campus arises, that is potentially of interest, Tye said.
While Epoch is currently the exclusive senior housing operating partner for National Development, the firm did develop a full-continuum building with a different management company in the past, he noted.
Meanwhile, the Bridges portfolio is continuing to grow as well, with two buildings opening this month in Massachusetts. One community is located in Sudbury and the other in Andover.
Like other senior living companies, National Development is also starting to dip its toes in the active adult space. It has secured the site of a closed Sam’s Club store in Natick, Massachusetts, and is planning to demolish the existing structure and build both an active adult community and a hotel on the parcel of land.
Co-locating hotels with senior living or active adult is a play that National Development likes, Tye said. It has proven successful in the case of Waterstone at the Circle.
“What we’ve heard from residents is that it’s nice that you can have guests stay at the hotel, or walk across and have a drink or meal at the hotel bar,” Tye said. “People like that synergy.”
Written by Tim Mullaney