Senior housing developers and operators are vying to be part of mixed-use, intergenerational projects in the United States — and north of the border.
Ground has now been broken on senior living communities that will be part of the $3 billion “age-inclusive” University District project in Calgary, in the Canadian province of Alberta.
University District encompasses 200 acres of land adjacent to the University of Calgary and owned by the school. The university set up a separate entity — West Campus Development Trust — to develop the real estate.
“We have a creative vision for a mixed-use community that caters to people who already live in the area,” James Robertson, president and CEO of West Campus Development Trust, told Senior Housing News.
This vision includes serving older adults. Through community engagement efforts, the development trust recognized that there are many people living in this part of Calgary who live in a house that they may not need or want anymore, Robertson said. Their children may have grown up and moved out, for example, but they want to remain in the area and are looking for good housing options.
“We said, that’s something we can help out with,” Robertson said.
In total, there are about 6,500 residential units planned for University Park, appealing to a broad range of ages. Condos and townhomes will be offered for purchase and rental units are also available. The whole University District is set to come together over 12 phases and is in about the fifth phase now, Robertson said; the first residents moved in about three months ago.
In terms of purpose-built senior housing, construction is now underway on two buildings.
Cambridge Manor will be a 240-unit community operated by The Brenda Strafford Foundation, a nonprofit that owns and operates four long-term care and assisted living facilities in Alberta. A variety of care levels will be accommodated in this building, Robertson said. It will be connected via an enclosed walkway with Maple by Truman (pictured above), an independent living condo building with about 100 units. Care will be available to residents of Maple by Truman for monthly fees and provided by staff based at Cambridge Manor.
Calgary-based Truman Homes is the development partner on both these senior living projects. They are targeting an opening date of early 2020, Robertson said.
“They’re a block away from the grocery store and coffee shop that are under construction now,” Robertson noted. “It’s important for seniors to stay active and socially engaged. This ticks all the boxes of good design and responds to needs and wants of an aging population.”
Robertson’s observations about the desires of today’s seniors echo what other developers told Senior Housing News for a recent deep-dive report on intergenerational living.
Simply plunking senior housing into the midst of a master-planned community is not enough to foster true intergenerational living, however, Robertson emphasized. At University District, there is programming to bring people of all ages together. For example, its upcoming “Northwestival” is expected to draw up to 3,000 people, with activities ranging from live music to wagon rides to axe throwing.
Additionally, small design touches are meant to foster interaction, such as park benches that face each other. The plan calls for dog parks and similar amenities that should help break down barriers among different age groups.
“When you walk your dog, that’s a demographic equalizer, it doesn’t matter your age or family type, that breaks down,” Robertson said.
The development group also worked with a consultant called Level Playing Field, which specializes in accessibility. The consultancy reviewed everything from choice of building materials to colors to lighting of streets and common areas, to ensure that University District is accessible to people of all ages.
If senior living operators and developers want to take part in intergenerational, master-planned communities like University District, they need to be willing team players, Robertson advised.
“We’re looking for industry leaders that believe in partnerships,” he said. “We are looking to create a very special and unique community … we look for members that want to join this value statement and to align with our approach.”
Interested in learning more about intergenerational living? Click here to access Senior Housing News’ in-depth report on the topic.
Written by Tim Mullaney