Executives and design partners involved with the development of The Holbrook of Woodstock knew they wanted a concept that could disrupt senior living norms while finding new ways of approaching amenities.
The Holbrook at Woodstock is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) on a sprawling 20-acre site in suburban Atlanta that incorporates 300 independent living, assisted living and memory care residences. The assisted living and memory care spaces consist of a two-story, 128,131 square-foot structure while the independent living portion is a five-story, 293,079 square-foot space. The campus also includes 16 one and two-story cottages.
The project was designed by Harrison Design Associates with an emphasis on challenging preconceived notions of senior living, with the community having the features of high end single-family residences with amenities of a world class resort. Construction of the community was overseen by Solomon Development Services.
With an emphasis on breaking common conceptions about senior living through deliberate design, The Holbrook of Woodstock found new ways to offer high-class amenities to residents while innovating and bringing in public interactions, earning it a top spot in the 2021 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards’ Best CCRC “Lite” category.
The Holbrook of Woodstock marks the third project in Solomon’s “new generation” of large-scale communities, according to Solomon Development Services President Davis Hunt. The project first started coming together nearly seven years ago.
“We like Atlanta a lot and we know Atlanta really well,” Hunt told Senior Housing News. “We felt the Woodstock area was right for this kind of product.”
Project planners secured land for the community in 2015 and a lengthy, but well-received zoning process culminated in construction in 2018.
Executives at Holbrook strived to incorporate innovative approaches to drawing the public into the community through the dining, spa and event spaces, while also doing away with the typical senior living terminology. The independent living residences are known as “active passionate,” assisted living spaces are known as “enriched” and memory care is “inspired living.”
“We wanted to disrupt the industry by changing all the nomenclature and really going after more of an active customer,” Al Holbrook, chairman and CEO of Holbrook Life, told SHN.. “We knew with the baby boomer population coming up, we had to have a full suite of amenities in our communities.”
Holbrook Life sold 21 leases over the last seven years of senior living properties before shifting gears to focus on larger campuses. Today, Holbrook Life operates six communities across Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The Holbrook of Woodstock’s dining venues are marketed as restaurants that also serve the public in addition to residents. The campus’ Zinnia cafe slings with grab-n-go snacks and made-to-order sandwiches, while the Off The Rails restaurant and Off The Rails Sports Bar offer more upscale-style meal service.
Designing dining venues that the public could also use has been a long-term goal for the company. Holbrook recalled a meeting in 2017 with other executives when it was asked if anyone ate at their respective property’s dining venues — and no one said yes.
“I knew that we had a serious issue,” Holbrook said. “We all know food is your medicine and medicine is your food. So we hired a restaurant branding company and decided we were going to build first-class restaurants into our communities.”
The community’s sprawling design is rooted in creating a neighborhood feel that is connected with walking trails and courtyards, while maintaining the privacy and intimacy for residents.. The design team also respected the architecture and the craftsman-style residences of the adjoining existing residential community.
The Harrison design team handled initial site selection as a consultant before protecting architectural, design and landscaping plans for the project.
“I felt like the Holbrook team was really strong in instilling that sense of disruption all the way through the process visually but also in the verbiage they were using with the project from the beginning,” said Harrison Design Principal Emily Schickner.
One of the project’s goals was to create spaces where residents and members of the public could interact. To achieve that, the Harrison team knew they had to find ways to support residents and the public.
“The public spaces create a level of finish there and we were able to do that within an achievable budget. It’s a balance of those two things. Achieving the feel of that was something that was important and a challenge,” Williamson said.
Designers also had to incorporate different infrastructure pieces needed in senior living spaces to fit above large, vaulted ceilings with several more stories of building on top of it.
The team found new ways to incorporate prospective resident feedback into the design, and allowed residents to customize room designs after looking at renderings..
“There are many different unit designs in the community to create an individual resident experience,” Schickner said. “It made for a puzzle you got to experience all the way through. It wasn’t done when the permitting came through. Not even close.”
The community features a spa, two pools, a salon, communal living rooms, a library, theater, wine cellar and multiple green spaces for residents.
Construction on the site started in late 2018 and continued in 2019 despite a historically long rainy period for Georgia, Hunt said. The rain added to the challenges of the site, which formerly held a lake..
“It felt like it was never going to stop raining,” Hunt said lightly. “But in the end, we worked our way through it and in the end we delivered a really outstanding project.”
Construction continued into 2020 through the Covid-19 pandemic, wrapping up in early 2021.
The community moved in its cottage residents in March, 2020, and opened to residents belonging to all levels of care in 2021. Move-ins continued despite the pandemic.
The community includes specialized equipment such as UV lighting, negative ion emission and HVAC systems to combat the spread of Covid-19.
“We believe with our protocols and all those steps, we had some of the safest buildings in the industry during the pandemic and going forward,” Holbrook said.
The community also didn’t go into “total lockdown,” as Holbrook called it, and allowed family members to visit residents safely throughout.s.
Holbrook said the community received about 1,500 inquiries from prospective residents in 2021.. Now, leaders with the company expect to fill all of the community’s vacant units about two years ahead of schedule.
“When you’ve got grandchildren coming in for swimming lessons and family events happening, word spreads fast that we aren’t your typical property,” Holbrook added. “It truly is a different community.”
The restaurant-style dining venues have also helped create an intergenerational atmosphere in the community since opening, and Holbrook said a “tremendous” number of outside customers with no affiliation to the Holbrook of Woodstock or its residents have come through the property to use various amenities.
“We know it works, and people are having a lot of fun,” Holbrook added.
Steve Levin, a former senior vice president of real estate with Omega Healthcare Investors who served as an SHN awards judge, said the Holbrook of Woodstock was a successful culmination of many elements to create a truly redefined senior living environment.
“This is a place where you live. This is promoting lifestyle. They really are hitting it on all cylinders,” Levin said.”This is where an aging population is going to be in an environment where they can excel with a resort mentality.”
Levin added that the robust amenities at the Holbrook of Woodstock would help residents continue to enjoy their lifestyle choices without having to make sacrifices when considering moving into a senior living community.
The longtime senior living industry executive complemented Holbrook’s seamless incorporation of varying levels of care and floor plans for residents.
“Stand alone communities are not going to be able to sustain because the average length of stay is short,” Levin added. “People are living longer and healthier lives and by the time you get into true memory care and assisted living, your stay might not be too long. This is a full continuum of revenue and you are able to attract them and market them.”