Developer Avenida Sees Active Adult Proving Its Recession Resilience

Editor’s Note: Interested in the active adult market? Check out SHN’s Active Adult Virtual Summit, taking place July 15-17. Click here to learn more and register.

Construction recently wrapped on Avenida Naperville, a 146-unit active adult community near Chicago. This is just one project in a robust pipeline from Newport Beach, California-based developer Avenida — and Managing Partner Robert May remains bullish on active adult despite Covid-19 challenges.

Part of his optimism has to do with the resilience of these communities in the midst of the pandemic, as well as his confidence in future demand, he told Senior Housing News.

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Projects started this year will be completed in about two years, with another 18 months or so of lease-up after that. Meanwhile, the huge cohort of baby boomers will continue to age into the prime target demographic for active adult communities, which Avenida has found to be in the range of 70 years old to 75 years old, May told SHN.

Covid-19 has affected “every aspect of our business,” he said, and the first month or so of the pandemic sent a “shockwave” through the company and the sector as a whole.

But Avenida found its footing. Operationally, Avenida properties pivoted to new ways of maintaining resident safety and engagement, such as doing hallway happy hours and supporting residents’ use of technology to connect with loved ones.

Locations raffled off iPads and smartphones each month, while on-site staff dedicated time to helping residents learn how to use Zoom and other platforms and apps.

“The ability of our residents to use technology on a daily basis took a quantum leap,” May said.

On the business side, rent collections have been “terrific,” while sales leads stayed in touch to learn how properties were being secured and what the resident experience is like in this time. Throughout Covid-19, 75% of Avenida communities have written new leases each month, and move-ins have happened every month, with precautions in place.

“As we expected, this product type has proven to be resilient — it’s proven to be recession resistant from the standpoint of our residents; they felt safe, they paid on time,” May said. 

Covid-19 has suppressed occupancy across the continuum of senior living, as properties have been largely locked down. Conventional wisdom states that demand will come back most quickly for assisted living and other needs-based products, while active adult and independent living may be slower to recover, particularly if consumers are concerned about infection risks in communal living settings.

But May believes that active adult communities have a strong story to tell about the benefits of communal living — including having support structures in place for safety and some measure of socialization — during the pandemic.

“Without exception, those who would express their feelings said, ‘I’m so much happier here than I was in my home that I left,’” he said. “I feel safer, I feel better in this environment than if I was still at home.”

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Interested in learning more about Avenida and the active adult market? Robert May is one of many notable speakers at the SHN Active Adult Virtual Summit. Click here to learn more and register.

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