If all goes according to plan, Vi will be back in the rental game soon.
The Chicago-based operator of luxury, entrance-fee continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) is close to revealing new plans for a line of high-end rental communities with independent living, assisted living and memory care units, according to Vi President Randy Richardson.
The move is notable for Vi, which in 2011 officially exited the rental community space after selling its nine-community rental portfolio to Senior Housing Properties Trust for approximately $478 million. Hyatt co-founder and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker first founded Vi in 1987 under the brand name Classic Residence by Hyatt.
“We got in this business 32 years ago with high-end independent living rental communities with some assisted living,” Richardson told Senior Housing News. “So, we’re kind of taking a cue from our roots.”
While it’s not clear when exactly Vi would formally announce its new rental community plans — and Richardson has talked about returning to the rental market over the years — it appears as though those plans are now close to fruition.
“We’ve got one deal in the pipeline right now that I can’t talk about yet,” Richardson told Senior Housing News on Friday. “In a month, I can.”
But he did give a preview of the plans as they currently stand. The new rental communities would have two separate buildings: one with 140 units for independent living, another with 90 units for assisted living and 30 units for memory care. Unlike the 10 CCRCs Vi currently manages, the new communities wouldn’t have any skilled nursing units.
The rental communities will be heavily marketed toward prospective independent living residents, with amenities that include a full fitness center; spa-like locker rooms and therapy spaces; dedicated spaces for arts, card games and billiards; full bar; movie theater; golf simulator; a swimming pool; at least two dining venues and a variety of other upscale spaces and services.
“It’s going to have a lot more amenity space than what you see in the market today,” Richardson said.
Residents would also have the option to take a certain number of free ride-hailing trips per month, with additional offsite amenities including rounds of golf or spa and massage sessions.
As for pricing, residents would pay a smaller membership fee upon move-in in place of a larger, more typical CCRC-style entrance fee. Rental rates would be market-based.
The new communities represent a “version 2.0” iteration of Vi’s former rental properties, he added. After selling its rental portfolio in 2011, Vi spent time retooling the model to meet the current senior living market. What the company found is that today’s senior living residents expect to bring their active lifestyles with them when they move into senior housing.
“Years ago in those rental communities, we never had a fitness center,” Richardson said. “But today, the customer wants that kind of amenity, and they want it to be purpose-built with the kind of equipment you would expect to find in a fitness facility.”
On the whole, Vi is focused on meeting the rapidly changing needs of its residents, today and tomorrow. The company in recent years has spent hundreds of millions of dollars renovating its existing communities and adding more upscale amenities.
“[Residents] have been around the world. They’ve eaten at five-star restaurants. They know what good food and service is,” Richardson said. “If you’re going to promote yourself as luxury, you better be able to deliver on that level.”
As part of its “Living Well” philosophy, the company serves gluten-free and vegan food in its communities, offers yoga classes and personal training sessions and hosts lectures from university students and professors.
The company innovates in other ways, too, including by using new technology and Wi-Fi, stocking its kitchens with locally sourced food, phasing out plastic straws and using biodegradable takeaway food containers.
“Not to be too bold, but we think we’re ahead of the curve in terms of the options we offer people,” Richardson said. “The residents moving in today are much more interested in lifestyle.”
Vi’s focus on lifestyle seems to have served it well. The company currently has an average occupancy rate of 94%, with two communities that are completely sold out.
And it’s not just the company’s residents who seem happy. Vi took the no. 4 spot on this year’s Best Workplaces in Aging Services list, and it currently has a companywide turnover rate of 20%.
Looking ahead, Richardson expects Vi to have several iterations of its new rental properties online or in the works within the next three years. And, the provider could perhaps even have some more entrance-fee CCRCs in its portfolio. But the company is careful not to grow too big or too quickly.
“If you grow too quickly and you’re not able to maintain your culture … that can be a problem,” Richardson said. “I’d rather have a more disciplined growth pattern in time to maintain all the good things we’ve developed.”