Innovation Senior Living Plans Middle-Market Pipeline Under ‘Ascend’ Brand

Innovation Senior Living was pursuing a strategy of targeting the overlooked adult day market, but with those services on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the company is turning its attention to acquisitions and growth.

Currently, the operator manages five senior living communities, mostly for other owners. But Miami Beach, Florida-based Innovation plans to acquire and build a new pipeline of 10 middle-market assisted living communities under the brand named “Ascend.” Already, the company has secured debt and equity through private-equity firm Asym Capital and Greystone.

The move represents a “big pivot” toward being an owner-operator, according to Founder and CEO Pilar Carvajal.

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“As a third-party management company, with Covid things were a little bit unstable, and so we wanted to get more fully entrenched in the business,” Carvajal told Senior Housing News.

The company ran into issues where owners with holdings in multiple sectors were pulled in different directions, resulting in “rash decisions” that conflicted with senior living operations, Carvajal added. For example, the owner of one senior living community that Innovation managed decided to close the community on short notice.

“One day to the next, we were out in terms of managing that property,” Carvajal said.

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On top of that, the company had to put its adult day operations on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And while Innovation does plan to resume those services once the pandemic subsides, the company’s focus now lies in acquiring and managing assisted living communities.

Innovation is looking to expand first in Florida and grow in other states in the region as it makes sense. The company is hunting for acquisitions of single-site communities that may have seen some distress due to Covid-19.

“These small properties just are not able to withstand the costs of Covid,” Carvajal said. “And I think that’s going to be an opportunity for a larger [provider] to come in and serve that population.”

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Innovation’s growth plan hinges on buying communities at a favorable price and then upgrading and updating them.

“We would come in and take over, increase the census, renovate and give them a new look,” Carvajal said. “And then incorporate a lot of things that these single asset owner operators can’t incorporate: group purchasing, electronic health records, … telemedicine.”

The company also is planning to break the middle-market mold where it can. For example, Innovation is partnering with a multifamily developer to build modular senior housing in Clearwater, Florida — although Carvajal stressed the plans are still too early to elaborate on. Innovation also plans to incorporate forward-thinking technology in its future communities to boost efficiency and bring costs down.

In terms of pricing for these communities, Innovation is targeting average monthly rates of about $2,500. Residents would likely make less than $50,000 per year and possibly qualify for Medicaid. For now, the company will not offer memory care services, as those are still too costly for the middle market, Carvajal said.

While Innovation is focused primarily on acquisitions, Carvajal is also not opposed to new development if the opportunity is compelling enough.

“I think within the next five years we’ll be at 10 [additional] properties, without a problem,” Carvajal said.

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