Vitality Living has partnered with noted hotel developer Fusion Hospitality to launch a new senior living brand, Landmark Lifestyles.
Plans for the new brand exemplify several growing trends in senior living, including a focus on smaller cities with rising profiles, and hotel conversion projects.
A Landmark Lifestyles project taking shape in Tupelo, Mississippi will be the first senior living development for Fusion and will be Vitality’s entrance into Mississippi. Brentwood, Tennessee-based Vitality operates 16 senior living communities across Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas.
Tupelo is where Fusion got its start, building a single motel in 2008. Fusion CEO Bruce Patel possesses an intimate knowledge of the city, which is one reason why Vitality founder and CEO Chris Guay felt comfortable working with him on this project.
“It felt like part business, because he sees senior housing as a great opportunity, and part personal, because he felt like Tupelo needed a better place for seniors,” Guay told Senior Housing News.
The Landmark Lifestyles community is being built as part of a mixed-use development on land that Fusion owns near downtown. Already, Fusion has created some commercial and retail storefronts on the site, with plans for a hotel as well.
The senior living community will be a continuum-of-care rental model. The first phase involves 23 detached independent living patio homes, which will be followed by 64 assisted living and 30 memory care apartments. Planned amenities include extensive walking paths and other outdoor spaces, including a dining area with fire pit; fitness center; library; beauty salon and clubhouse.
The project has been a long time in the making, following Guay’s first meeting with Patel about three years ago. As a city of about 38,000 people in a largely rural state, Tupelo did not immediately stand out as a prime location for senior living, but a closer look revealed its promise.
The city itself has “great bones, great infrastructure,” with a strong demographic of aging residents who are loyal to the area and want to stay close to family, Guay said. Plus, most of the senior living options are older properties.
“A lot of folks have been so focused on the big-money markets — Atlanta, Dallas — so a lot of folks hadn’t looked at these secondary markets,” Guay said. “Tupelo’s a case in point, where it’s a great market. If five other guys decide to build there, it’s not as great, but if we’re the first one there, and we’re building something to the level that Bruce was willing to build … it’s an opportunity.”
He is even more bullish on Tupelo and similar markets in light of Covid-19. His belief — shared by some other real estate professionals — is that the pandemic will lead to some level of out-migration from dense, expensive cities to places where the cost of living is less but the quality of life is greater. More flexible work-from-home policies will enable people to live closer to family or where the weather is better, for example. Cities like Tupelo stand to benefit from these trends.
The pandemic also has created immense challenges for the hotel industry, which could create new opportunities to convert failed hotels into senior living communities.
Vitality always has been open to hotel conversions and is currently undertaking two of them. One of them is a second project with Fusion, in Jackson, Mississippi.
The pandemic is likely to create more opportunities for repurposing hotels, but Guay cautions that these projects “aren’t as easy as you might think they are at the outset.” Not every hotel is a good candidate for senior living, with features such as large rooms being important; and, sizing up the surrounding market is important as well. Even an extensive hotel conversion might have trouble competing against brand-new, ground-up development, he said.
Going forward, further Landmark Lifestyles communities are in the works. Fusion and Vitality are discussing whether to brand the Jackson project as Landmark Lifestyles, and they are working together on a project in Arkansas that likely will be under the umbrella.
The Tupelo community is slated to welcome its first independent living residents next year, and Guay is optimistic that despite Covid-19 challenges, consumers will be receptive to what Landmark Lifestyles offers. He emphasizes that Vitality has refined its operating protocols to maximize resident safety, while current restrictions on visitation will be lifted as the pandemic eventually wanes.
“We’ve really been focusing people on, we are a safe place to be, where you will stay a lot more connected than you would be if you were home alone,” he said.