Rose Villa Expands Pocket Neighborhood Model with Zero-Energy Cottages

A non-profit senior housing provider in the Pacific Northwest is investing in independent living “pocket neighborhoods” that prioritize socialization and community among residents, including a new design that meets its own energy needs.

Rose Villa, a “type B” life plan community with more than 200 residents in Portland, Oregon, recently unveiled a new 12-cottage, energy-efficient neighborhood called The Oaks. The neighborhood’s homes, designed and built by Portland-based design-build firm Green Hammer, are equipped with airtight insulation, heat recovery ventilators, energy-efficient water pumps, LED lighting and energy star appliances, triple-panel windows and special shower heads, sinks and toilets — all of which make for a low- to no-cost energy bill for residents, the company said.

The new neighborhood specifically appeals to residents in the Northwest, where forward-thinking ideas are perhaps more common than in other parts of the country, according to Rose Villa CFO Diane Gibson. Rose Villa is also unique in that, while it’s technically a fee-for-service life plan community, it lacks assisted living units in favor of supplemental in-home services.

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“We saw there was a market for it … I think our existing residents have a high level of interest in reducing their footprint,” Gibson told Senior Housing News, of the zero-energy project. “In Portland, there are a lot of people that are willing to pay a little bit more to support this kind of product, and to have that home they can be very proud of.”

But The Oaks has another draw in addition to its energy efficiency, and one that could hold favor in markets outside of Portland. It’s also by design a “pocket neighborhood,” a concept that groups freestanding homes around a common area or green space to maximize social interaction.

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While the pocket neighborhood model hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption in senior living, there is growing evidence it’s catching on. For example, Garden Spot Village, a life plan community with nearly 1,000 residents in New Holland, Pennsylvania, opened its first pocket neighborhood last year. The concept — which won the top spot in the 2018 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards’ “Best Independent Living” category — was so successful that Garden Spot plans to build an additional 50 such homes.

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Rose Villa has made similarly big investments in the idea, including a previous $60 million campuswide redevelopment that added 75 new apartments and pocket-neighborhood cottages along with a main street and village center that houses restaurants, a garden store, a rooftop deck and a spa.

These kind of designs may go a long way in attracting younger residents. Rose Villa noted that its average age for new incoming residents for the redevelopment was 74, compared to the average age of existing residents, which was 78.

“I feel like having choices, different styles, different looks, but still that Rose Villa flavor, has brought in younger people,” Gibson said. “It has also brought in more diversity in the type of folks that have moved in.”

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Currently, Rose Villa is also preparing for its third and final redevelopment project, which will in 2020 include the construction of a new long-term-care neighborhood, more independent living units and a second zero-energy housing project in partnership with Green Hammer.

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