Maplewood Develops New Flagship Property, Plans West Coast Expansion

As Maplewood Senior Living prepares to open the sales center for its Inspir-branded Manhattan high-rise project, the company is also constructing a new flagship community in Connecticut. In addition, it is planning to open a corporate office on the West Coast to support its first communities in that part of the country and drive further expansion in those markets.

Currently a regional player with 13 communities across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ohio, Maplewood has plans to expand within the United States and abroad; with a capital partner in Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE: OHI), Maplewood is looking at a potential $5 billion pipeline of projects.

That’s a dollar figure that Maplewood CEO Gregory Smith first shared with Senior Housing News in April 2017, and he stands by it today.

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“You look at other people getting into the space, like the group that mentioned they’ve got $3 billion in capital to deploy, I don’t think there’s a revision to the $5 billion number,” he told SHN.

While Maplewood is taking a disciplined approach to growth, it is looking at doing other urban developments in the $250 million to $300 million range, similar to the one in NYC. At that level, “it doesn’t take long to get capital out the door,” Smith said.

Building up its strongholds

As it positions itself to expand across the country and even overseas, Maplewood is most immediately strengthening its presence in its core markets. It is at work on a 29-acre, $45 million ground-up development in Southport, Connecticut — just a few miles away from the company’s corporate headquarters in Westport.

The 98-unit assisted living and memory care community is poised to be the “flagship” for the Maplewood brand when it opens next June, Chief Investment Officer Thomas Gaston told SHN. Southport is located on the shore of Long Island Sound, and the community is being designed capture the essence of that locale, mixing history and charm with the latest in technology and programming.

Maplewood worked with the town of Southport to rid the site of invasive species and re-introduce native species, and do extensive landscaping to improve the quality of the wetland setting. The company partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore a 9-acre ice pond on the location. That effort ran to about $750,000 and involved installing a dam and taking other steps to re-create the pond as it would have been at the turn of the century, when ice was harvested from it.

The building itself also will call back an earlier era. “It hearkens back to the seaside village, an old inn with all-natural materials,” Gaston said of the design.  Courtesy Maplewood Senior Living

The interior features open-concept dining venues and large common spaces, including a second-story patio of almost 2,500 square feet. Many apartments will be equipped with smart technology, including voice-activated tech run through Amazon Echo devices; Maplewood has been working “hand in hand” with Amazon and will have more details to share in the future, Smith said. Technology, including virtual reality, will also be baked into the community’s programming.

Just about an hour’s drive from this property, a very different community is taking shape on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Construction on Maplewood’s Inspir building began in earnest last January, and now 11 of 23 stories have been erected, with mid-February targeted for topping out. A sales center is being built a few blocks away from the site, to open in early December. Creating the sales center has itself been a multimillion-dollar effort, Smith said.

“In this leasing gallery, we wanted to replicate the finishes and experience of living in that [Inspir] building, [so] it took a tremendous amount of effort as well, almost like building a mini-building,” he said.

There has been “extreme interest” in Inspir among potential residents, according to Andrea Ellen, Maplewood’s vice president of marketing and communications. New York City has a notable lack of senior housing — a fact that spurred the Inspir development and a few others also underway in the city.

Other Maplewood projects are in the works for the area as well. There are some deals in the making for New York’s Westchester County and Long Island, Gaston said, and a $50 million development in Princeton, New Jersey, is set to break ground in the next 45 days.

Breaking into new territory

Maplewood is starting to venture further afield from its long-standing home turf, as well. The company has letters of intent on two West Coast development projects, one in Seattle and the other in Los Angeles.

Both of these communities would be additions to the Inspir portfolio, which is the brand intended for high-end properties in dense urban markets. Maplewood is on the hunt for other Inspir sites as well, and to that end is searching for a place to start a West Coast office, Smith said.

Although the coasts are the prime targets at the moment, Maplewood is generally interested in high-barrier-to-entry markets that could support Inspir developments. So, metro areas such as Chicago are on the radar. In addition, leaders with Maplewood and Omega met at the recent National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) conference in Chicago, and the two groups decided to look at the U.K. as a first international market for Inspir.

Certain locales across the United States have experienced senior housing oversupply. Maplewood is not venturing into new markets because it felt too constrained by supply in the Northeast, however.

“I think there’s a little bit of additional supply coming into the markets we’re currently in, but that wasn’t the driving force behind our change in strategy,” Smith said. “It was really about making sure that we’re tapping into markets that we feel are underserved or undersupplied and may not have the level of quality that we deliver in our product. ”

Increasing labor pressures and expense creep are of concern, but Smith feels confident in Maplewood’s ability to “keep controls in place,” and says it helps that Maplewood is the market leader in both occupancy and rate. It targets a stabilized occupancy in the mid-90s and is consistently hitting that level even in today’s challenged environment.

“We’re not getting … occupancy erosion,” Smith said. “That’s not to say it’s not a struggle in some instances.”

Not everything has gone to plan for Maplewood. For example, it phased out a home care arm after deciding that it was too much of a distraction from the core senior living business. But in the senior housing space, Smith is confident in the superior nature of Maplewood’s offering.

“Our competitors and colleagues do a wonderful job,” he said. “But, in places, we see an absence of the level of product that we provide to seniors.”

Written by Tim Mullaney

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