St. Louis senior housing booms with boomers

St. Louis senior housing booms with boomers

The St. Louis region appears to be preparing for the wave of elderly baby boomers with a boom in construction of assisted living and senior care facilities.

Just last week, retirement communities announced expansions worth some $230 million, and in the last 18 months, at least six assisted living communities have completed or are building assisted living and skilled nursing campuses with hundreds of units.

The country as a whole is just beginning to deal with its aging population, but St. Louis has an especially high number of older residents. At 15%, it had the eighth-highest concentration of residents 65 years and older, according to 2014 census figures. By 2045, a quarter of the region’s population will be in their golden years.

Developers and senior living operators are getting ready, building more rooms and freshening up others at a fast pace as they compete for the area’s older residents.

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“What you see going up on every street corner is for-profit assisted living,” said Terry Walsh, president and CEO of FV Services Inc., a nonprofit that operates Friendship Village Sunset Hills and Sunset Village Chesterfield.

But his organization, too, has big expansion plans. On Wednesday, it announced a $200 million project adding hundreds of units along the continuum of care — including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing — to both campuses.

In Chesterfield, 52 apartments and a new assisted living building will have 39 apartments in addition to a memory care unit. A new 90-bed skilled nursing facility, chapel and clubhouse lobby are also planned. In Sunset Hills, a new apartment building with 76 units will be added to the 52-acre campus, in addition to a 144-bed “Village Care Center” and other expanded facilities.

“We’ve got so many people lined up waiting to move in we thought now was a good time to use our strength financially and in the marketplace to make more room for more people,” Walsh said. “We’ve already presold 70% to 75% of the units we haven’t started building yet.”

The Gatesworth, a high-end senior living facility in University City, announced last week that it had completed the first phase of its McKnight Place assisted living and skilled nursing remodeling project.

The $32 million project adds 90 new assisted living apartments to the campus in a new 100,000-square-foot building. Work will start soon to remodel its McKnight Place Assisted Living building into 18 assisted living and 27 skilled nursing units.

“Given the demand we were seeing from our own residents and other residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, we knew we didn’t have enough space in the existing building to simply adapt within it, and saw an opportunity to expand our assisted living offering to have greater capacity to meet the needs of the broader community,” Bob Leonard, director of operations for the Gatesworth Communities, said in a statement.

New companies have moved aggressively into the market recently. The Stonecrest brand has opened about 160 units of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the last year, and it’s currently building another 81-unit campus in Wildwood.

In the last year, it opened Stonecrest at Clayton View in Richmond Heights and Stonecrest of Town and Country on Woods Mill Road. Those facilities are developed by NorthPoint Development of Kansas City and operated by Integral Senior Living of California.

Another company, Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle, has built three new assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the last two years. The Sheridan at Laumeier Park in Sunset Hills has 81 apartments, the Sheridan at Creve Coeur on Lindbergh Boulevard added 53 apartments, and the Sheridan Chesterfield at Justus Post Road is just finishing up construction. It will add 91 apartments just across from Chesterfield Mall.

Dennis DeSantis, a broker with commercial real estate firm Colliers International’s St. Louis office who worked on some of those real estate transactions, said he gets inquiries all the time for available land for senior living developments.

“That’s a lot of units they’ve put in our market pretty quickly,” DeSantis said.

Others are trying to expand. Residents have been outspoken on a proposal to expand Aberdeen Heights on Couch Road in Kirkwood with a 50-unit apartment building and about 40 assisted living and skilled nursing units. Owner Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America, which would have faced a contentious zoning hearing last week, plans to resubmit its proposal in early 2018.

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