Bridgewood Property Company has quietly become a regional force in senior living with a “steady as she goes” approach to development and operations.
The Houston-based company has developed 34 communities since its founding, founder and president Jim Gray told Senior Housing News. Its current portfolio of 22 properties in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, totaling 2,600 independent living, assisted living and memory care units, are managed by Bridgewood’s in-house operator, Retirement Center Management (RCM).
Gray is “baffled” by the pace at which some senior living markets are being flooded with product and is committed to Bridgewood’s careful approach — still, the company has ramped up in recent years, starting to grow through acquisition for the first time.
Deep industry knowledge
Gray got his start in real estate at Trammell Crow Company, a legendary Dallas-based real estate brokerage and developer that is now a subsidiary of CBRE, the largest real estate services and investment firm in the world.
Gray left Trammell Crow in 1997 to form Cypress Senior Living, focusing strictly on independent living, and ultimately built a portfolio of 2,250 units across the Midwest and Southeast before selling Cypress to Chartwell Retirement Residences (TSX: CSH-UN), Canada’s largest senior housing operator, in 2006.
Chartwell’s U.S. portfolio was sold to Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) and HCP (NYSE: HCP) for $847 million in June 2015.
Building scale, one community at a time
Gray regrouped by forming Bridgewood and RCM, focusing on higher-end, ground-up developments across the care continuum in urban infill markets with dislocations in supply-demand balance. The typical scale of a Bridgewood community is around 200 units.
The company undergoes a lengthy site selection and entitlement process, Gray told SHN.
“We build one community at a time,” he said. “There is a lot of product being built in some markets, which is baffling to me.”
Development accounts for the majority of Bridgewood’s portfolio, but the company has added acquisition to its strategy in recent years, and has added five communities in the past three years through purchases.
“We look for newer buildings in submarkets with lease or operational issues, where the values are more attractive,” Gray said.
Bridgewood has a solid pool of investors for its acquisition and development pipelines. It has done 14 deals with Chicago-based real estate equity firm Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, and has also worked with Newark, New Jersey-based PGIM and Quincy, Massachusetts-based investment firm, Bay North Capital Partners.
One notable community in Bridgewood’s portfolio is The Village at The Triangle, a 206-unit continuing care retirement community which is part of a broader mixed-use development in Austin, Texas. The Village at the Triangle was awarded “Best CCRC Design” in the 2018 Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Awards.
The Village comes with amenities one would find at a luxury spa or hotel: a rooftop lounge with skyline views; a heated saltwater pool; high ceilings and windows allowing for copious amounts of sunlight to enter.
Bridgewood and its partner on the project, W2 Real Estate Partners, wanted to meet the demand of older adults seeking to maintain their active lifestyles and valuing walkability to entertainment venues and restaurants.
Two-thirds of Bridgewood’s portfolio is stabilized, with a 94% occupancy rate. Its lease-up portfolio, including The Village at the Triangle, is close to being stabilized. The strong occupancy rate allows Bridgewood to hold the line on offering rate concessions and waiving move-in fees, although it does offer some incentives, if a market is soft.
Like other operators, RCM is dealing with market pressures caused by low unemployment and a smaller workforce pool, and is having to pay more to attract and retain employees.
The company does allow flexibility for employees to move to different communities and departments, and is in the process of establishing a tuition program for community department heads to assist in their continuing education.
“We don’t want to be the biggest operator,” Gray said. “We just want to be the best.”
Editor’s Note: Click here to learn more about the Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards, which begin accepting submission July 1.