Senior Living Business: Maintaining Census During Renovations/Expansions--

Phasing and Coordinating The Project—A Very Complicated Puzzle

 A major challenge when renovating, redeveloping, or expanding an occupied community or facility is phasing and coordinating the project to minimize the impact on current residents—who may be frail or ill—and to maintain maximum attractiveness for prospective residents as the renovations progress.  

 Any announcement of an expansion, renovation, repositioning, or redevelopment can create fear among residents that they’ll live out the rest of their lives in a construction zone, lose their view, suffer personal inconvenience, or otherwise change the appeal of moving into the community in the first place, according to Dave McDowell, Senior Vice President at Greystone Communities, Inc. in Irving, Texas. And what happens on the development side with respect to its effect on existing residents certainly affects marketing efforts to new prospects, as well.

 Renovations, expansions, and redevelopments all affect campuses differently, and the phasing and coordinating of the construction will differ depending on the scope of the project. When communities that are older and no longer competitive embark on a significant project, some elect to use natural attrition of the population to the point where an existing building can literally be torn down. Or they may choose to construct, say, a brand-new health-care facility elsewhere on the campus, transfer the existing health-care population into it, and then tear down the original building and build something new in its place. 

 “Whether it’s a minor renovation or a major repositioning, though, gaining the acceptance of current residents is always key,” said McDowell. “That can be difficult to accomplish if residents don’t have enough information to fully understand the situation and develop their own appreciation of the project.” If residents can visualize a better environment or a new amenity in advance, they’re much more likely to be amenable to a brief period of inconvenience. Addressing all the issues early and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard will also help eliminate any surprises.

 Special issues and disruptions (e.g., temporary living/dining/recreational arrangements, worker/resident interaction, noise control, safety, staff flexibility) should certainly be addressed upfront. “That sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times they aren’t—even for fairly significant renovation projects,” McDowell added.

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