Art is important at Opus East Memphis – in fact, it was central to the community’s design.
The community, with its elegant, artistic tudor design elements, was inspired by a local art gallery and garden that sits adjacent to the site.
The Opus East Memphis community takes elements of other properties belonging to owner Sagestone Partners, but expands on the concept with more square footage for the units within and the amenities offered.
“There’s a lot of light [and] a lot of transparency,” Don Rosemann, president and CEO of Rosemann & Associates, which designed the community. “I walk into an environment that’s engaging, it’s active.”
From the outset, Opus East Memphis was designed to carry a “home-meets-hospitality” feel, according to Jessica Willms, design director and senior project manager at Sagestone Partners.
“Of all the properties we’ve done, this one has been the most successful in building that energy that you feel immediately as you walk in the door,” Willms said. “There is always a constant stream of visitors, activities, meals and energy that has been a true testament with the culture this property provides.”
The community’s use of natural lighting and elegant design helped it snag a top spot in the 2023 Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Awards’ Best Assisted Living category.
Planning began in earnest for Opus East Memphis in November 2018, and construction documentation was submitted the following year. Final drawings were completed in 2020, and construction was set to begin – just before the Covid pandemic hit.
From the outset, the project team wanted the design to fit into the surrounding area and not stand out as a senior living community at first glance.
According to Willms, the project hit just about every trial and tribulation imaginable over the five years the project was under development, including Covid restrictions, slow zoning and site plan approvals, material and labor shortages.
However, the project team worked together in the past, which helped the process along. The team was so close-knit that ideas emerged from team dinners.
“We kept going back and forth and revisiting and just working through what’s the best for this community,” Rosemann said.
The community is next to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, a local art gallery and public garden. That proximity inspired the project team to design a community as pleasing to the eye as the grounds next door.
The community’s white exterior main contrasts with black framed windows, evoking a “modern twist,” the project team noted. The community’s dining areas have ample natural lighting, large windows and a “statement wall.”
“Art and creativity was a huge, huge factor in the design of this building,” Willms said.
Like many other senior living communities during the time, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed construction of Opus East Memphis.
“We began this project right at the time when the whole lumber shortage hit the country,” Rosemann said.
Montgomery Martin Contractors handled construction for the project.
Additionally, there were challenges faced with resources and transportation. Because of these projects, the budget had to be adjusted for the project and totaled $90 million.
The project started in the summer of 2021, and also ran into delays related to rainy weather. That pushed the team’s targeted grand opening to July 2023.
However, despite all of the challenges faced throughout the construction phase of the project, there were minimal changes in the design of the community, and both Rosemann and Willms said they were pleased with how it turned out.
“Really, from when we did these renderings a very long time ago, to what the project ended up being at the end of the day … it’s spot on,” Willms said.
Today, Opus East Memphis stands as a “work of art,” the project team said.
The building sits back around 400 feet from the street, and the shape of Opus East Memphis is designed to invite visitors to come inside, and the inside helps invite them back out.
The community is “art driven,” and as such includes an “eclectic” collection of art throughout. Residents are encouraged to visit the neighboring Dixon Gallery and take classes as well.
Design elements include a grand lobby and a “contemporary forward-leaning style.” The community has an array of amenities that include an electrical vehicle charging station, billiards and gaming room, theater, fine art gallery, fitness and rehab center, zero-entry swimming pool and community gardens.
Following Opus East Memphis’s completion and grand opening in July 2023, the community has completed 260 tours and has welcomed 117 residents, with an additional 38 planning to move in. Leasing is currently approaching 50% as of mid-January.
This follows a long wait list that had been established during construction, and Willms said those people did not walk away from the project, even with the delays.
The true test moving forward, according to Rosemann, will be the continued reception of the community as more people move in. So far, there has been positive feedback.
“I had a conversation with a member of or corporate office operations team last week, and she was saying when she would visit a property, within the first year you have residents that would come up to her and have negative things to say, or complaining about this or that,” Willms said. “She said after this this trip, they didn’t have one negative thing to say, which is like music to our ears.”
With the overall successes from Opus East Memphis, Rosemann and Willms said they plan to take the lessons learned from this project and apply it to future designs. A new Opus community is currently in the early design stages, with both teams coming together again to design it, and elements from this community will be incorporated into it.
Throughout the process, Rosemann said the teams had fun working on the project together.
“This is something that you wake up every morning, and you work on it and you think about it, exchanging dialogue, and with the entire team, including every single person and the owner,” Rosemann said. “It’s a fun experience.”
Judges who scored the project praised it for its use of natural light and use of both indoor and outdoor design.
“Best project of them all due to its understated elegance, selection of materials and finishes, proportions and interplay between indoor [and] outdoor spaces,” Judge Gracyn Robinson wrote in her review. “This community is striking.”
Cynthia Shonaiya, another judge for the Architecture and Design Awards, noted the “elegant community” is a welcome addition to the East Memphis community.
“Both the exteriors and the interiors showcase high end, luxury finishes and furniture selections for a cohesive and consistent ambience,” Shonaiya wrote. “The distinctive art gallery and the artisanal arched portals are of particular note for their excellent design and execution.”