Senior housing cooperative pioneer and operator Ebenezer is returning to its roots with the launch of a new co-op development pipeline and brand.
The organization on Wednesday announced it is expanding beyond managing co-op senior housing communities, and is now actively developing them under a new brand umbrella called Estoria Cooperatives.
Ebenezer has revealed plans for its first such community — an 89-home project called Estoria Lakeville — in Lakeville, Minnesota, which is just south of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
Under the co-op model, residents buy shares in a corporation that owns the building, allowing them to lease a specific unit within a building and utilize common areas. Typically, residents will pay a monthly charge for assessments, maintenance and repairs; and have voting rights over decisions made in the community.
The model is still relatively niche, but it is one that has gained steam in the senior living industry in recent years. For instance, non-profit senior living provider Ecumen in 2017 also launched a co-op brand, Zvago, in the Minneapolis market.
Although the product type has always had its proponents, particularly in the state of Minnesota, strong performance during the pandemic is spurring further growth among companies that include Ebenezer.
Ebenezer, which is part of Fairview Health Services, develops, consults and provides management services to more than 100 senior housing communities throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, including more than 60 co-ops for older adults.
For Ebenezer, co-ops have long been an essential part of the business – in fact, the Edina, Minnesota-based company said its president A. Luther Molberg developed the first one in Edina, Minnesota, in 1978.
In the time since, the company has only developed one additional senior housing cooperative – but that is now changing, according to Ebenezer Director of Marketing and Sales/Cooperative Development Shona Schmall. “There is … not a large amount of developers building them,” Schmall told Senior Housing News. “So, I think there is plenty of room for definite growth.”
Estoria means story or history in Portugese, and Ebenezer said the word reflects its “rich background as a senior living provider.”
As planned, a typical Estoria community will have about 89 homes, ranging from 970 square feet for one-bedroom units to 1,765 square feet for units with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
“Members [who reserve during the development phase] get to personalize their home and design their home with amenities such as flooring and cabinets,” Schmall noted.
Other possible customization options for units include cabinetry, hard-surface countertops, appliances and lighting packages.
Planned shared amenities include a yoga and fitness center, golf simulator, pub, fix-it shop, bike storage, an art studio, coffee bar and grand lobby. Outdoor amenities include bocce ball and pickleball courts, kid-friendly play areas, space for grilling, garden plots and a dog park.
Ebenezer plans to begin the pre-sale process for the Lakeville community with informational meetings in the next 30 to 45 days as it finalizes designs and pricing.
Construction won’t begin until 60% of the homes are sold, Schmall said.
Prospective residents will need to pay $500 to reserve a home in an Estoria community. They must also pay $2,500 to sign a purchase agreement, securing their home in the community.
Schmall expects to reach the 60% threshold for the Lakeville community in six to nine months. After crews break ground, construction on the community is expected to take 14 to 16 months.
Ebenezer is working with a company called LCP 360 that will allow prospective residents to tour units in 3-D before the community is built using only a schematic for reference — “almost like Hollywood,” Schmall said.
Although Ebenezer has only announced its first community in the Estoria brand, the company already intends to scale it further in the years ahead.
Looking ahead, the company has set a goal of developing two to three new Estoria communities per year, Schmall said.
“Our goal is definitely to grow in the coming years,” she said. “We don’t have anything locked in – there are some opportunities in negotiations right now.”