In 2016, Rockwood Retirement Communities in Spokane, WA had just completed development of a new campus. This project had taken nearly 10 years from start to finish, due in large part to the onset of the Great Recession and the deep financial impact it had on the industry in the years after.
“The Great Recession made it difficult to nail down pre-sales,” said Alan Curryer, CEO of Rockwood Retirement Communities. “Then we got the pre-sales and prepared to finance. But it was hard to get financing because the senior living market had dried up for a while following that recession. Our experience in self-developing a project was a frustrating process to say the least.”
In June 2016, officials from Whitworth University had reached out to the Rockwood team to discuss a potential collaboration – the university wanted to sell a parcel of their land to Rockwood for a new campus development that would partner with the school. Unsure of how to evaluate this opportunity, Rockwood team enlisted Greystone’s expertise.
“Greystone helped us through the process and actually came out to Spokane to meet with us and university officials,” Curryer said. “In the end, it wasn’t quite enough land for us to say yes, but Greystone helped us make a good impression on the Whitworth team, enabling us to stay in touch with them and keep the possibility of a partnership alive despite not being able to build on their campus.”
Just two years later in 2018, Rockwood wanted to determine what the growth potential was in the Spokane market, so they looked to Greystone for strategic planning help. After an in-depth market analysis, Greystone helped the Rockwood team identify their top priorities. Both teams determined that repositioning and redeveloping the Hawthorne campus would be the top priority for the organization.
“Greystone identified the challenging aspects of the campus in its current state, such as being landlocked, having very small apartments and lacking many of the typical amenity spaces that a modern CCRC would offer” said Curryer. “Occupancy was declining and would definitely get worse if we didn’t take action. We also needed a creative, phased solution that specifically addressed how to transition to newly built spaces in a way that would be sensitive to the needs and interests of current residents.”
The Rockwood team was also concerned with how complicated the plan might need to be and how long it would take to complete.
“There are limits to our abilities alone. Greystone helped to leverage our internal resources and create a strategic repositioning plan that I’m confident will get us to stabilized occupancy in a shorter amount of time,” Curryer added.
As the plans for Hawthorne moved forward, Rockwood kept the Whitworth officials informed and discussions continued about how the university and Rockwood could collaborate long-term. This eventually led to the Partnership for Intergenerational Learning, which brought together these two organizations, located within ½ mile of each other, and allows residents of the community to take classes on campus, use their athletic facilities and aquatic center, and take advantage of university resources as if they were a student. With the partnership officially in place, Rockwood chose to rename the Hawthorne campus “Rockwood at Whitworth”.
“We are already 80% pre-sold for our independent living building,” Curryer remarked. “We owe a lot of that to our partnership with Whitworth, there’s a great synergy there. And of course, Greystone helped bring this all full-circle.”
When all is said and done, the new Rockwood at Whitworth campus will have more than doubled their number of units, going from 103 to 209, which will include a mixture of independent living cottages, independent living and assisted living apartments, and memory support units.
“Memory support is new to this campus. When we realized we couldn’t support residents who needed this type of care, we decided to include this in our new plan,” Curryer explained. “This allows us to serve our community in a more contemporary way that avoids a lot of the regulatory burden of skilled nursing, which we have chosen to eliminate in this repositioning.”
The campus is currently halfway through Phase I of the plan, which should be complete in early 2021. Phase II will begin soon after, during which they will build their new four-story independent living building.
“Greystone helps you move quicker than you would have been able to on your own,” said Curryer. “Greystone brings a breadth of resources to the table, so you have a vast array of skillsets available to you all in one place. When developing a strategic plan or a repositioning plan for a specific property, partnering with a development consultant is a great way to leverage your own talent and resources to ensure a successful outcome.”