Belmont Village is teaming up with residential real estate giant Greystar to develop a 17-story senior living highrise in San Diego, in a project that is a first for both companies.
The building will be the 32nd senior housing community in Belmont Village’s portfolio and marks the first time that the Houston-based company has done a joint venture with another real estate developer. Charleston, South Carolina-based Greystar is the largest U.S. operator of multifamily apartments and has more than $15 billion of assets under development — but this will be the company’s first foray into licensed senior housing, as the highrise will have a mix of independent living, assisted living and memory care.
“It’s a different way of doing things,” Belmont Village CEO Patricia Will told Senior Housing News. “Typically, you find residential developers who want to hire an operator.”
Instead, Greystar and Belmont Village created a joint venture to leverage their shared expertise in development. In addition to the highrise that is about to break ground, the two companies are collaborating on a second project in the San Diego market.
Belmont Village is a pioneering senior living operating company and also is known for taking on complex development projects. Many Belmont Village communities feature multiple care levels and are located in markets with high barriers to entry, including mixed-use developments in urban centers as well as projects with university connections.
Although Belmont Village has never formed a JV with another real estate development firm in the past, the company has struck unique partnerships in recent years. One such partnership is with Florida health system Baptist Health, on a pipeline of Sunshine State properties that will leverage innovative health and wellness capabilities.
The partnership with Greystar is also driving innovation, Will told SHN. In particular, she believes that the typical senior housing apartment module leaves “a lot to be desired,” and Greystar has helped push the design envelope in this regard.
“One of the really fun things that we were able to do with Greystar as we invented or reinvented the living space was a series of studies and design charrettes about how to do storage in smaller units, how to redesign bathrooms that have to be ADA compliant but at the same time can be a lot more user friendly, how to make kitchenettes that work for today — how to create spaces where people live that are more interesting,” Will said. “We’ll see in this building prototypical changes in our units … that’ll speak to tomorrow.”
Greystar also is touting the synergies of the partnership.
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“This is really a situation where two strong developers have joined forces and 1 plus 1 equals 3,” said Jerry Brand, Greystar’s executive director, in a June 1 press release. Greystar declined to comment further to Senior Housing News.
The partnership initially came about when a mutual colleague brought Greystar and Belmont Village together. Greystar already had been working on the San Diego site, and the two organizations agreed on its potential for senior living. Starting in late 2017, they began collaborating in earnest, and together purchased the land in March 2020 and closed on a construction loan last month. Long-time Belmont Village partner Harrison Street also contributed equity.
The site is located in La Jolla, in close proximity to major shopping and dining centers as well as the University of California, San Diego School Medicine and UCSD’s main campus. Being close to the university should help foster collaboration, as Belmont Village already has ties to the school, Will noted.
“We collaborate currently with the Center for Longevity,” she said. “We just were involved in a very interesting piece of research with them on senior resilience.”
Plans call for 180 units in total and an array of amenities such as a professionally managed fitness center, salon and spa, multiple dining venues, terraces and outdoor recreation areas and a saltwater pool. Upper floors will command ocean views, with private balconies on the 16th and 17th floors. Joseph Wong Design Associates is the architect and Suffolk Construction is the contractor.
Covid-19 has created an uncertain environment for senior living operations and development. The timing on this project worked out well, given that outdoor construction has been allowed in San Diego for a while, Will said. While “nobody has a crystal ball,” she believes that the project is well-positioned to open by the first quarter of 2022.
On the operational front, Belmont Village has implemented a variety of protocols and pursued creative solutions to combat and contain Covid-19. The company has always had a strong clinical component, including having nurses on staff, and this expertise has paid off in the midst of the pandemic, Will said. And she is confident that the partnership with Greystar will continue to raise the bar on how health care and hospitality can be seamlessly blended into top-of-the-market senior living.
“We’ve never seen the idea of great real estate and terrific hospitality, wonderful programming, as something that has to exclude clinical correctness,” she said. “We think we can integrate the two and they can go hand-in-hand.”
While this is the first foray into assisted living and memory care for Greystar, the company does have a sizable and growing active adult portfolio under the Overture brand. And on Tuesday, the company announced that it acquired the property management business of Alliance Residential. The transaction increases Greystar’s footprint by about 25%, to encompass 2,400 communities across 42 U.S. states and 13 countries. Alliance is actively developing active adult properties and is managing the first one to open under the Marvelle brand, and the company also is developing senior living properties managed by third-party operators; Greystar declined to comment to SHN on whether any of those communities are included in the newly acquired management portfolio.