Mary’s Woods at Marylhurst used to take pride in being “the best kept secret” in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Not anymore.
As a $216 million repositioning draws near completion, the nonprofit life plan community has raised its profile. Mary’s Woods is now more visible and more integrated with the greater Lake Oswego and Portland metro areas, in part through partnerships with local businesses — such as Ovation Coffee and Tea — and health care providers.
Mary’s Woods is a case study in a larger trend within the senior living industry, of providers breaking down long-standing barriers to become more intergenerational and less isolated. It’s a trend that Mary’s Wood President and CEO Diane Hood caught onto early, by listening to others in the industry.
“We went to a lot of conferences and meetings, and we thought, we’re missing the boat,” she told Senior Housing News.
Now, she is proud that Mary’s Wood could be setting an example that others strive to follow.
‘Come in and see us’
Mary’s Woods was founded and sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary, a congregation that began in Montreal and came to Oregon in 1859.
As the new millennium approached, with fewer women joining the Sisters, the organization decided to create Mary’s Woods on a tract of land that it owned in Lake Oswego. The campus opened in 2001, with 233 apartments, 33 villas, and 90 units of assisted living, memory care, and long-term skilled nursing care. The campus expanded slightly in 2011.
Even after the 2011 expansion, the community buildings were intentionally tucked back from the surrounding roads, including Highway 43. This began to change when the most recent projects began, through the creation of “The Village.”
This project entailed adding 198 apartments across four buildings, along with 48 assisted living apartments and suites, and a town center called the Dunne Community Center. The community center includes a cafe, bar, a 300-seat auditorium that can be divided up for smaller events or meetings, and back of house space.
Critically, in terms of raising the visibility of Mary’s Woods, three buildings were constructed closer to Highway 43. Here, Mary’s Woods is leasing space to local businesses and organizations that provide services and amenities. Therapists and physicians with Providence Medical Group, a large health system, are occupying 9,000 square feet. In another building, local coffee purveyor Ovation will open a location, and there will also be a dentist, a nail salon, and a space leased to a group of personal trainers.
Mary’s Woods’ fitness/wellness center will also be in these buildings, as well as corporate office space and meeting/event space that the organization hopes to eventually open to the general public.
There are further efforts toward community integration as well, including programs with a nearby elementary school. Even new signage flanking the road is meant to give passersby the idea to “come in and see us,” Hood said.
Great community integration does not happen overnight, and is not something that a new building project alone can achieve. It depends in part on relationships between senior living providers and organizations in their surrounding communities, which sometimes take years to forge.
In the case of Mary’s Woods, the connection with Providence Health dates back to the earliest roots of the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary. At least one Providence employee has always sat on Mary’s Woods board, and the life plan community partnered with Providence’s home health and hospice arms. Still, having Providence as a presence on the campus was not a foregone conclusion.
“A number of us have worked really hard to get them on our campus as a partner,” Hood said.
Having on-site physicians and therapists is a valuable selling point, particularly given that Providence accepts a wide range of insurance and offers a Medicare Advantage plan that some residents are enrolled in. Other health systems, such as Kaiser Permanente, were less attractive to Mary’s Woods because they were more restrictive.
“One of our residents was about to move in, and the daughter contacted me to find out who the doctors are — they want to establish a relationship,” Hood said. “It’s really convenient. It helps the adult son or daughter from having to come and take mom or dad to an appointment.”
While getting Providence on the campus could be seen in some regards as a decade’s-long process, it was not so difficult to find other partners.
Ovation Coffee is an example. The family-owned company contacted Mary’s Woods leasing agent after seeing signs about available space. Hood checked out their first location, in Portland’s fashionable Pearl District, and she liked what she found.
Ovation creates a welcoming vibe for people who want to work or gather. Hood anticipates that students from nearby Lewis and Clark College will use it as a place to study, and residents who still work will find it a great spot for meetings.
Partnering with a local brand like Ovation not only helps link the campus to the overall metropolitan area but creates a unique offering, which is becoming increasingly important as baby boomers age. Senior living providers anticipate that this generation is bringing higher expectations, including with regard to dining. Some of Ovation’s offerings will appeal to adventurous palates.
“We like the idea of the new experience they’ll bring us,” Hood said of Ovation. “They have this Moroccan coffee with Moroccan spices, it’s the best.”
With boomers’ higher expectations in mind, Mary’s Woods hired a new Vice President of operations to oversee food and beverage. He has worked in downtown Portland restaurants and in high-end resorts, and brought a team with him to Mary’s Woods. The quality of the dining has “improved drastically,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Cheri Mussotto-Conyers told SHN.
Going forward, catering in particular could become a source of revenue for Mary’s Woods. This likely would be focused at first with catering on-site events, given all the space that the life plan community now has that can be rented out or utilized for internal events like an annual gala.
The changes at Mary’s Woods are resonating well in the marketplace. The leadership team anticipated a 12-18 month pre-sale period to reach 70% capacity on the newly built units, and reached that within eight weeks, said Mussotto-Conyers.
While the demand exists to fill even more units, Hood feels the campus is “right-sized” now, as it is heading toward 850 residents. In the next year, the focus will be on smoothing out operations with all the new components that have been added.
Hood is excited about what the future holds, as she believes that the repositioning efforts not only keep Mary’s Woods up to speed with industry trends but will give residents greater choice and flexibility in terms of their lifestyle — and this is aligned with the organization’s mission.
“Our goal is that every person at every life stage is able to live how they most want to,” she said.