The Engel Burman Group has developed a successful portfolio of senior housing on Long Island since the company entered the space in 1997. Now it wants to bring its version of the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) to new markets, and is testing out potential future treatments for dementia in its existing communities.
“We haven’t done a licensed CCRC in New York state, but we have built a lot of ‘look-alikes’ on campuses we already had,” Engel Burman Group Partner Steven Krieger told Senior Housing News.
There are only 12 licensed CCRCs in New York, according to data from LeadingAge New York. That’s because of regulatory thresholds that make it hard to do business, Engel Burman Partner Jan Burman told SHN. New York Department of Health guidelines mandate that 50% of a CCRC’s units must be pre-sold before construction can begin. The Department of Health must also give its approval before a provider can begin marketing a community to prospective residents.
“People can’t wait that long,” Krieger said.
Garden City, New York-based Engel Burman’s model consists of building age-restricted independent living communities and assisted living and memory care facilities on adjacent parcels — a model it has perfected all over Long Island over the past 22 years. Engel Burman’s portfolio currently consists of 17 assisted living and memory care facilities in Long Island and New Jersey, under the Bristal Assisted Living Brand.
Engel Burman also has seven age-restricted communities in Long Island and New Jersey, as well as an assisted living and memory care community on New York City’s Upper West Side.
Occupancy across Engel Burman’s portfolio is in the mid-90% range, and Burman and Krieger are confident that its footprint will meet the demand of a growing senior cohort that is entering the senior living space older, and staying longer. The average age of move-ins at its 55-plus and 62-plus communities is at least 10 years older, while the average age of move-ins at its Bristal communities is in the mid- to late-80s.
“We keep people on our campuses longer because they’re coming in more frail to begin with,” Burman said.
Still, the company’s success in drawing a younger resident to its active adult communities puts it in the mix with an increasingly competitive field of developers targeting this product type.
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Engel Burman is looking for ways to extend the quality of life of its Bristal residents through university partnerships and technology.
Last year, the firm launched a partnership with the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research focusing on dementia treatment. The partnership evolved from an existing relationship between Krieger and Dr. Peter Davies, director of the Feinstein Institute’s Litwin-Zucker Center for Alzheimer’s Disease & Memory Disorders.
The Feinstein Institute is the research arm of Manhasset, New York-based Northwell Health, the eighth-largest hospital system in the country with 24 hospitals. This is the first research program of its kind.
The Feinstein Institute set up a lab in Engel Burman’s 88-unit Bristal assisted living facility in Lake Success, New York. Davies and his team are studying how strength, resistance training and activities such as ballroom dancing can slow the onset of memory impairment, and even reverse its effects. By observing residents with Alzheimer’s and early onset dementia in their everyday settings, Davies and his team are able to develop individualized treatment programs, and have outfitted Bristal Lake Success’ fitness center with equipment is believes will achieve the desired results and benefits for residents.
Engel Burman is also looking at using technology to assist in dementia care. It has outfitted its Upper West Side Manhattan facility with sensors that are able to track dozens of algorithms related to residents’ habits, Krieger told SHN.
For example, if a resident who normally wakes up once a night to go to the bathroom suddenly wakes up multiple times a night, it can be an indicator of a sleep issue, a urinary tract infection or another ailment. This network will also be installed in Bristal Lake Success to aid in the Feinstein Institute study.
The data collected from the sensor can be used to prevent falls, predict changes in mobility, prevent ailments and identify other signs of cognitive decline.
The work with Feinstein puts Engel Burman on the forefront of an effort to create memory care programs that are supported by — and inform — the latest research in the field.
In another example, Acts Retirement-Life Communities’ Acts Center for Applied Research (ACAR) in April launched a two-year study in its communities, tracking the changes in residents’ brain health habits as a result of participating in Total Brain Health classes offered across the portfolio. The results of the study may serve as a blueprint for maintaining brain health as seniors age.
Looking outside Long Island
Engel Burman has a robust development pipeline, and long-term relationships with capital partners such as Chicago-based real estate investment firms Harrison Street Real Estate Capital and The Northwinds Group to help grow scale.
Engel Burman began construction in January on a $125 million community in Mt. Sinai, New York, consisting of a 225-unit active adult community for residents 55 and over, along with a 120-unit Bristal assisted living facility.
Other projects in the pipeline include a Bristal assisted living community in Bethpage, New York; a 55-plus age-restricted community in Deer Park, New York; and a 440-unit community in Uniondale, New York, which will be equally split between active adult and independent living.
The firm would love to find more sites for opportunities such as the Mt. Sinai project, which is situated on 24 acres. But such sites on Long Island are few, and Engel Burman is looking for opportunities within the greater New York City area to accommodate such scale.
Burman and Krieger believe that having an in-house construction arm and proven relationships with lenders, in addition to strong capital partners, allows Engel Burman to execute on their plans faster, on time and under budget.
“We’re building a Bristal in under a year now. That’s unheard of,” Burman said.
The firm is observant of the flood of new lenders in the space, but the terms these new players are offering are not much different from Engel Burman’s existing lenders, with whom they have developed strong relationships.
“Our concern is any lender we work with honor their commitments. We want someone who says they will make the loan to do so, at terms they promise that are consistent with final documents,” Burman said.