A growing number of multifamily real estate developers are entering the senior housing space, encouraged by demographic trends showing an explosion in the 85-plus generation over the coming decades.
Among the latest is Woodmont Properties. The Fairfield, New Jersey-based firm recently launched a senior housing division and tapped industry veteran Stephen Nichols to lead it.
A wealth of management experience
Nichols comes to Woodmont from Baltimore, Maryland-based Brightview Senior Living, where he spent over three years as executive director for start-up projects, overseeing the construction, lease-up and operations of Brightview communities in the New Jersey and New York markets.
Prior to Brightview, Nichols spent nearly 12 years at Atria Senior Living, the last two as regional vice president, responsible for 18 communities from New York City to long Island. He got his start in the industry with Sunrise Senior Living in 2002.
This cumulative experience makes him ideally suited for launching a senior housing division, Nichols told Senior Housing News. And he’s ready to apply the lessons learn at Brightview in shaping Woodmont’s development strategy.
“Brightview is very meticulous in its approach to studying demographic trends, locations, staffing and staffing rates,” he said. “They’re very cautious, but not to a fault. It’s a well-oiled system.”
Woodmont has developed a portfolio of 60 properties in multifamily, industrial, office, retail and hospitality real estate, mostly in New Jersey — one of the states where it plans to launch the senior housing pipeline.
The courtship between Woodmont and Nichols began last June, when Woodmont CEO Eric Witmondt had some questions about senior housing and reached out to Nichols. That evolved into a deeper conversation where Witmondt shared his vision for senior housing, and how it could be positioned for success by leveraging Woodmont’s multifamily service line.
At the time, Woodmont Properties was in the planning process for Washington Square Town Center, a mixed-use development in Washington Township, New Jersey, incorporating apartments, townhomes, retail, medical office and a 110-unit assisted living community. The senior housing parcel was sold to a joint venture of Wegman Companies and Columbia Pacific Advisors, which will build the community.
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“After hearing Eric’s vision for senior housing, it was too good of an offer to pass up,” Nichols said.
An aggressive pipeline
Already, Woodmont has amassed a healthy pipeline of sites in various stages of progress, and is aiming for a sizable footprint encompassing New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Nichols said.
“We have six sites already in the works, maybe up to 10, that we feel would be strong markets,” he said.
Nichols is still forming Woodmont’s development and operation strategy. He did reveal, however, that the firm would not limit itself to a single care acuity, and will study its target markets for gaps in care to determine the best product type for a market.
“Woodmont has the ability to build several types of senior housing product,” he said.
Nichols was non-committal on whether Woodmont would also operate the senior housing communities it builds, or if it would partner with a third-party operator.
“It’s not a decision we have to make today,” he said.” “Whether we decide to manage the property or go with a third-party operator, our platform will support that.”