LCB Senior Living facilities feature salons, media centers — described as a type of movie theater — and fine dining with professional chefs and menus on par with commercial restaurants.
As the first wave of baby boomers approach their 80s, the construction industry is experiencing an increasing demand for assisted living facilities, a trend that is not expected to end any time soon.
“I heard someone call it the silver tsunami,” said Ted Doyle, spokesman for LCB Senior Living, a New England-based firm specializing in developing and operating high-end assisted living facilities. “The first wave of Baby Boomers eligible will come of age in 2022. That in a lot of people's minds is going to create an artificial extension of this building cycle. The people living in our communities are 80 or older. When assisted living started people thought it would be 75-year-olds, but 75-year-olds don't need to leave their home.”
LCB currently has 25 communities, 10 of which are new and another five in various stages of construction in Dover, Del.; Shrewsbury, Mass.; Stanford, Conn.; Darien, Conn; and Chadds Ford, Pa. The company is currently doing due diligence on a half dozen other sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, but won't close on the purchase until all the permits are in place, Doyle said.
In Dover, the construction budget is set at about $20 million for a three-story, 68,000 sq. ft. building with 75 apartments. The facility, dubbed “Silver Square,” is being developed in two phases, with phase one featuring a hotel and coffee shop; and the 66,000-sq.-ft. phase two, a medical center and bank. Together, the two are budgeted at about $50 million.
In building the facilities, the number one priority is safety, said Eric Ayre, project manager of the Dover project.
“Our buildings are fully sprinkled. Essentially, they are sectioned off in case of a fire. Smoke doors, smoke dampers. These buildings are, as far as safety, especially from fire, they are top of the line. Aesthetics and the residents' comfort also are top priorities. Unlike other all communities, I feel our buildings are on the higher end. They are steel buildings and the facades are generally a mix. Dover is all Hardy plank, which is kind of a cement-based, composite material siding and lots of glass. There is a lot of lighting.
“Downstairs, we have storefront glass. On the upper levels, it's more what you would see in a residence. We try to make them so they are not institutional looking in anyway. They are meant to give you a feel like you were at home. Our buildings are not cookie cutter. All have some variation. Really, no two are the same,” Ayre said.
Construction on the Dover site called for a myriad of construction equipment.
“We had to have cranes to set the steel and obviously there was a lot of lift work so we had boom lifts for the big equipment. We had pretty much everything under the sun, dozer, triaxles, loaders …,” he said.
LCB Senior Living facilities feature salons, media centers — described as a type of movie theater — and fine dining with professional chefs and menus on par with commercial restaurants, Doyle said.
“We like our buildings to be unique to our communities,” Doyle said. “We realize the people who move into our buildings tend to be well-educated; have traveled; and have sophisticated taste. There is a lot of cultural activity. People will go on excursions to the theater. We try to focus on the people and who they are and who they've been. I think that sets us apart a lot. Our dining program may be the most important aspect of our buildings.”
This is the second major cycle of assisted living facilities construction, Doyle said.
“The first was '92-'02 depending on where you lived,” he said. “Then the market cooled off. That resulted in between 75 to 100 apartments in many communities, which is not nearly enough. Those people are faced with a choice. If you live in a town of 25,000, as a rule of thumb, 3,000 will need assisted living. What happens is historically people have had to look in other towns. It's easy for us to think of seniors in a detached way. The fact of the matter is, for me, to be asked to move would be traumatic. All of the important things in my life would change. That's what happens to seniors when they get to a point when they need assistance. We just saw about four years ago the next cycle of development. Over the past few years we've seen a lot of building in this industry, not just us. It's about to become a crisis. There [are] all kinds of housing for seniors that is needed.”