Middle-Market Operator Strive Acquires 7-Property Portfolio, Launches Memory Care Brand

Strive Senior Living has acquired the seven-property portfolio of Sutton Homes small-house memory care communities, and will use this as a platform to launch the Sanctuary by Strive memory care brand.

Strive was founded by the husband and wife team of Trey Vick and Carrie Vick. The couple met during their time in the U.S. Air Force. After their service, Trey went on to a career in finance and real estate investment, ultimately becoming CEO of V3 Capital, a real estate development and investment firm based near Orlando in Apopka, Florida. Meanwhile, Carrie became an executive director with Emeritus Corp. and then a consultant in the senior living industry.

“The culmination of taking our capital and development background and marrying that with her operations background, we started Strive,” Trey Vick told Senior Housing News.

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That occurred about three years ago, when V3 Capital made its entrance into the senior living space through the creation of Strive at Fern Park in Fern Park, Florida.

The Fern Park project took shape when V3 acquired six office buildings that were previously part of a technical college, as well as two adjacent acres, Vick said. The six buildings became an assisted living community, with each building having a unique theme, such as the “Key West House” and the “Biltmore House.” A standalone memory care building was constructed on the vacant tract of land. The campus totals about six acres, with 130 total beds, 44 of which are memory care.

The Strive vision is to provide high-quality care at a middle-market price point. Serving the middle market is a massive opportunity, given the huge number of aging baby boomers in this demographic group. However, creating a financial and operational model for this price point is challenging. 

For Strive, one key was redeveloping a site.

“Because we did adaptive reuse, our all-in development cost per unit was lower than if we would have gone ground-up,” Vick said. “So, by us creating that value through redevelopment, we were able to pass that along to the residents.”

Keeping a tight rein on operating expenses is also crucial, and to that end, Vick highlighted the importance of creating a strong culture, particularly for associates. If workers feel “rewarded and engaged,” they turn over less frequently and perform at a higher level.

“To really play at the middle-market price point, if you just crunch numbers and look at the bottom line, it’s hard to get there,” he said. “But, if you can interject some culture into it, that’s how I think you make it work.”

Assisted living rates for Strive at Fern Park generally range between $3,000 and $5,000 a month, depending on factors such as unit size and level of care, Vick said.

The Sutton Homes acquisition was opportunistic in some regards but fit into the overall vision and strategy for Strive.

Sutton Homes was owned by a family that was ready to retire, but the brand had a “great reputation” in the local Florida market, Vick said. Furthermore, all of the Sutton Homes locations are “homestyle” memory communities that serve no more than six residents. 

“I really liked the idea of being able to deliver care in a homestyle environment for residents that maybe need a little more hand-on care,” Vick said.

The acquisition was under contract prior to the Covid-19 pandemic reaching the United States in mid-March, but the small home format also gives the Strive team some confidence. With fewer staff and residents, smaller communities are in some ways easier to secure than larger properties — a fact that is driving strong interest in small-home senior living in the midst of Covid-19. That said, Vick believes that larger communities can also be safe places during the pandemic, and he credits his wife with leading Fern Park into the “new normal” of operations without any widespread Covid-19 outbreaks. 

“She knows the business inside and out,” he said. “She’s very instrumental in our ability to execute what we’re doing.”

Vick declined to share the acquisition price for the Sutton Homes portfolio, but described it as “reasonable.” There is room to grow occupancy; Strive will be fully renovating the seven homes to make them more competitive, and will ultimately rebrand them under the Sanctuary by Strive banner.

Going forward, the Vicks intend to expand Strive through both large-format and small-home communities, with a focus on Central Florida and coastal markets in the Sunshine State. Prior to the Sutton Homes deal, Strive grew earlier this year through the acquisition of a 15-bed standalone memory care community.

“It’ll be a balanced strategy, probably with more of a focus on the larger communities in the right markets, but we’re still happy to fill in these homestyles where it makes sense,” Vick said.

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