Christian Living Communities Seeks to Build Minka Small Home Community

Christian Living Communities (CLC) is in informal talks with senior care innovator Dr. Bill Thomas’ company, Minka, to open a small-home community for older adults in Colorado.

The senior living provider is currently looking for a 10- to 12-acre plot of land in the greater Denver area on which to ultimately build up to 100 Minka homes. As envisioned, the homes would range from 800 to 1,200 square feet and exist in small groups, according to CLC President and CEO Terry Rogers.

“We envision a ramp-up approach where we do smaller clusters of Minkas on this property,” Rogers told Senior Housing News. “The campus would also support some amenities.”

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They could function similar to independent living cottages, with included meals, amenities and programming, or they could lie closer to rental active adult properties, where services are more limited, Rogers added. CLC is seeking to build the community in a walkable area with access to nearby amenities and services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and medical offices.

Though the plans are still in their early stages, they are notable, as Christian Living Communities is among the first established senior living providers to collaborate with Minka on a large-scale senior living community.

Based in Englewood, Colorado, CLC has five communities it owns in addition to 21 others it manages through its operating platform, Capella Living Solutions.

Minka for the middle market

Part of why CLC is pursuing this project relates to its ongoing effort to help meet the middle market of seniors, Rogers said. And CLC isn’t the only organization pursuing this goal, as senior living providers and developers across the industry are seeking new ideas to seize the middle-market opportunity.

But meeting the middle market is often easier said than done, as high development and care costs often translate into higher rates for residents. Minka, which plans to crank out small homes using portable 3D printing technology, is one potential way to make the numbers pencil out.

“The cool thing is, they’re manufactured onsite or nearby, so we’re keeping the manufacturing cost low,” Rogers said. “And they’re beautiful structures.”

A Minka home could cost as little as $152 per square foot, and can be developed on land that might not otherwise work for a more traditional senior housing building.

CLC hasn’t yet determined what it might charge residents to live at the community or what branding the project might carry. But, rates could be as low as half of what a senior living resident might otherwise expect to pay.

“I’m really stoked about the manufacturing and the efficient cost structure,” Rogers said. “If we can keep the costs down and keep the scalability … we can keep the rents lower.”

Thomas outlined his vision earlier this year during Senior Housing News’ BUILD event in Chicago. Specifically, he pitched Minka as a more affordable alternative to the so-called big-box senior living model.

“Instead of one big project to get 120 units … you can have 10 projects on the books targeted in different locales and markets, and you can connect them all digitally to your network of supportive services,” Thomas said in May. “We think that a lot of Minkas are going to go on pieces of property that are just not suitable for large-scale development.”

Minka is already being tested in a few projects across the country.

The Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (CCAAA), for example, is working on a project called Village of Hope, which is set to turn a 23-acre wooded plot of land and a former elementary school into dementia-friendly neighborhoods for people of all ages and abilities. Plans call for 3D-printed Minka homes on the site, and Thomas’ MAGIC concept usd throughout.

The total development cost for the village is expected to be $15 million, according to Kathy Gillespie, CEO of the CCAAA. The Minka homes will be one-, two- or three-bedroom residences, with enough room for about 60 people, all told.

Another example lies in affordable housing provider Loveland Housing Authority, which last year announced a plan to build nine Minka homes on the campus of its 70-unit community in Loveland, Colorado.

Minka
Village of Hope

In the end, Minka will likely be just one of the ways CLC looks to hit the middle market.

“The middle market is so vast,” Rogers said. “I have a feeling Christian Living Communities will be involved in several avenues, and Minka will definitely be one of those.”

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