Multifamily, Hotel Developer Legendary Introduces Luxury Senior Living Brand

Within the next two weeks, construction is slated to start on the first Legendary Living senior housing community.

Legendary Living is the new senior living arm of Legendary LLC, a Destin, Florida-based real estate development and management firm that has specialized in luxury hotel, multifamily and resort properties since its founding in 1991. Through this work, including in active adult housing, the company perceived a gap in the market, Steve Griggs, director of real estate development for the Legendary Family of Companies, told Senior Housing News.

Namely, the company saw residents moving out of high-end active adult housing as their needs increased, at which point they could not find a comparable luxury product for their next stage of life.

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In exploring the possibility of entering senior living themselves, the Legendary team began to tour communities billed as high-end, but they were not “executed perfectly,” Griggs said. For instance, they did not fully create a “sense of arrival,” and the overall building design and site planning process had left room for improvement. These shortcomings were manifested even in small details: there might be 12-foot ceilings but standard-sized doors, for example.

“Those are things that some people may not pick up on and some people do … but we saw a lot of wasted time and space, and things could be configured differently,” he said.

Believing that Legendary could build a better alternative, Legendary Living was founded in 2017. Now, Griggs and his colleagues have ambitious plans to grow the portfolio in partnership with established operators.

Unveiling the Legendary model

Other multifamily and hotel developers have been eyeing the senior living sector in recent years. Seasoned senior living professionals have cautioned that some new entrants appear to have big plans to create hospitality-forward products without appreciating the operational complexity of these communities.

To avoid that pitfall, Legendary Living is committed to working with proven operating partners that can blend high-end hospitality with rigorous health care services, Griggs said. Legendary is also looking in particular for operators who also do development, to create alignment through joint ownership. He pointed to the first two Legendary Living projects as examples.

Construction is on the verge of starting on a $34 million, 122,000 square-foot, 124-unit assisted living and memory care community in Miramar Beach, just east of Destin on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The Blake will be the operator; based in Jackson, Mississippi, the company operates about 20 assisted living and memory care communities across seven states. Equity on the project is split between Legendary and an investor The Blake brought to the table, with debt coming from Iberia Bank.

A larger development is being planned for Montgomery, Alabama. This will include independent living, assisted living and memory care in a main building that Griggs described as “the mothership,” as well as 60 cottages. Starling will be the operator; the Jacksonville, Florida-based company has a portfolio of six luxury communities in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

“I thought the cottages were a great stepping stone, [because] I think there are a lot of people that want to get out of their old house but don’t want to go in a big building,” Griggs said.

The cottages are all rentals and will come with access to the community’s resort-style amenities. Health care-related services can be paid for on an a la carte basis. Plans call for five to seven different floor plans for the cottages, with some cottages being freestanding and some in duplexes.

Rental rates for the Miramar Beach and Montgomery projects are still being determined, Griggs said.

While Griggs is quick to tout the health care expertise of the operating partners, he is also clear on what Legendary is bringing to these projects: the ability to create luxury living.

“Luxury is our brand,” he said. “The parts and pieces and look and feel have to be luxury for us to put our name on it.”

Future growth

The Montgomery community is going up on land previously owned by a church, and Legendary is pursuing similar sites for future senior living projects.

Smaller churches in particular are seeing their congregations shrink as mega-churches open nearby, and according to some projections these smaller churches are facing a bleak financial future because of this, Griggs noted. Meanwhile, they sometimes have adjacent real estate that will no longer be viable for future expansions. These church-owned plots can be appealing sites for senior living communities.

“Often it’s in a great market with [nearby] houses, people of our demographics,” Griggs said. Furthermore, the existing church would be right next door to the senior living community, providing a spiritual home for some residents, while the church congregants are a pool of potential volunteers.

In addition to sourcing other church sites, Griggs is casting a wide net. He’s interested in building senior living within large mixed-use projects going up around Florida. And if the right opportunity came along, Legendary might develop its own mixed-use site, combining senior living with other types of real estate assets.

In addition to Florida, Legendary is looking at sites in other Southeast states as well as Tennessee.

For the next few years, Griggs would like to do four senior living developments a year. Further in the future, that could scale up significantly — but it all depends on relationships.

“I think we would probably go where we have those synergistic relationships from an operator/developer standpoint,” Griggs said. “If we find those relationships and cultivate those, it allows us to scale quicker.”

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