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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2023
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Retail Revival Via Senior Housing?

Paul Griffin III, a fifth-generation homebuilder and chief executive of assisted living facility developer Griffin Living, has a more inclusive approach to senior housing development. The Calabasas-based company has created a business model that merges a shopping center with an assisted living facility. The final product consists of a ring of retail with the facility in the middle. The company is pioneering the concept in Simi Valley; the company has developed similar properties in Georgia that are close in concept, but not in a shopping center, according to Kouji Nakata, development consultant to Griffin Living Both Sheridan Eastside and Georgian Lakeside, in Snellville and Roswell, Georgia, respectively, are close to restaurants, grocery stores, and pharmacies. With positive feedback Griffin received from these facilities, an infill project will be available in Simi Valley starting in April, the company said. The concept comes at a time when traditional malls and regional shopping centers are in trouble. A record-breaking number of store closings and bankruptcies – upwards of 10,000 – shook the industry in 2019, according to a report from CoStar Group. These closings were dominated by smaller tenants, the report said, compared to big-box retailers going dark in 2018. The Simi location at 3921 Cochran St. will consist of a 97,401-square-foot building with the capacity for 72 assisted living residents and 30 memory care residents, according to the official bed count. Surrounding the facility is 93,000 square feet of retail space. Tenants include an Aldi grocery store, Wendy’s fast food outlet, CVS pharmacy, sushi restaurants, optometrist and a nail salon. The shopping center is also within a few miles of single-family homes, condominiums and apartment complexes, where family of a potential resident may already live. Griffin Living has been the developer of roughly 12,000 houses in the Simi area, Griffin said, and homeowners are a mix of young, new and aging families. “The homerun there is, when the daughter who is in her 50s comes to see her mother or her father who are in their early 80s or late 70s, when they come to visit with them, if the meals are good and the daughter comes to our center in Simi, there are shopping centers, there are drug stores, there’s a hair salon. All of the activities that you might want, that you might need to run errands during the day, are there,” said Griffin. “She can also spend time with her mother or father in our center and walk around the site.” The Simi location may also get a pizza restaurant, Griffin said, as an inexpensive way for families to meet up and have dinner while also visiting grandparents. “I don’t have that lined up – the pizza place will probably be something we have to start ourselves,” explained Griffin. “That’s kind of our vision for the next step.” For future infill projects, Griffin plans to stake out shopping centers in need of a remodel. With roughly 10,000 people a day turning 70 years old in the U.S., Griffin said, the need for these integrated senior facilities is growing rapidly. “I’d want to remodel it and bring it up to speed with building fountains, gazebos and all of that. Maybe activities in the retail center and then building the senior center,” Griffin added. “The update/remodel of the shopping center, which would be a major remodel to the parking areas to turn them into activity areas, and the senior building would all happen at the same time.” The team at Griffin aimed to make the Simi facility as multi-generation friendly as the shopping center, with a bright, spacious entrance where one can see patio space and fountains on the other side of the lobby. “It’s architecture 101. I don’t want to walk into a house and see the back of a wall. I want to walk into a house and see light and distance,” added Griffin. Fresh air The Variable Refrigerant Flow System, a heating and air system that cost roughly $1 million more than what would go in a similarly sized assisted living facility, was chosen for the Simi center to make the space as inviting as possible for residents and families. “How can I walk in and have it be like a department store, or a Four Seasons hotel?” Griffin asked. “They don’t smell old and musty. I walk into a senior center and it smells old and musty all the time. … It seems the issue is getting fresh air exchanges in the building and having positive air push into the center of the building.” The system also uses less energy than a conventional HVAC install, Griffin said, making the facility cheaper to operate month-to-month. Griffin couples the attractive space with desirable meals and activities, including a beauty salon, library, game room, fitness center and bistro. Dining won’t be restricted to certain times, giving residents and families flexibility to come and go on their own schedule. “The industry is talking about what the live-work, multi-generational issue is. I believe the industry is watching us to see how the heck this one comes across,” Griffin said. “If we’re successful and the shopping center really works, I think you’re going to see a lot more propositions by other developer-operators in assisted living to do the same thing.” The company has another project in the works in Westlake Village, although without the retail element. It is set to open in July at 95 Duesenberg Drive. Griffin Living was established in 2009 and has projects in various stages of development and operation in California, Connecticut, Florida and Georgia. Griffin found inspiration through his parents’ difficulty in finding a high-quality senior living community as fuel to create needed accommodation for this age demographic. The team at Griffin is currently looking for new regional markets.

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