I recently read a great piece by Craig Witz entitled, A Senior Housing Planning Mantra – “Words, then Numbers and then Lines.” It was published on the Love and Company web site and dated October 30, 2018. In the article Mr. Witz rightly opines the correct order in which all successful senior housing projects should be planned – Words (program elements), Numbers (financial due diligence), and then Lines (design). Period.
Throughout my career I have worked with scores of wildly creative individuals. One former colleague stands out in my memory because we only collaborated on his projects during the conceptual phase of design. The reason we never worked together beyond the conceptual phase of his projects was because they never progressed beyond that phase of work.
My colleague’s creative ideas were seemingly cutting edge and offered exciting and engaging spaces of themed and mixed-use development which included entertainment, retail, dining, and residential components. The project’s renderings provided stunning windows into my colleague’s creative vision. And then the client would ask, “What’s it going to cost?” Not long after the question, the soft chirping of crickets would inevitably be heard.
“If You Build It They Will Come”
That quote is the famous line in the classic 1989 film, “Field of Dreams.” When Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) starts hearing voices to build a baseball diamond in his fields – sacrificing all the income from his crops – everyone thinks he has gone mad. He has. Sort of. And while the quote leads to some very heartwarming outcomes in the film, it is patently bad advice for any development in real life.
Sadly, the number one reason development projects fail is because of inadequate planning. There is much more to thoughtful and sustainable development than flashy renderings and catchy movie quotes which are based upon emotions. Arguably, the most important step of the three outlined by Mr. Witz, Numbers (financial due diligence) will include a Feasibility Study. The two main components of the Study are Market Research and Financial Feasibility. The market research will indicate WHAT should be built, and Financial Feasibility will indicate HOW MUCH should be built. Together they determine the level of WARRANTED INVESTMENT required to ensure the financial success and long-term sustainability of the project.
Brad Smith Associates has created an alliance with two other thought leaders in the senior living industry, Peter Anderson and Adrienne Berg. The group is called WELLplan, and we help you take a tiny step to wake up and stimulate the creativity we know you have within your organization. Our goal is to guide you in coming up with your own financially-rewarding ideas within you already… you just need to break the mold to reveal it.
Peter sums up his business approach to project development best with his example of two hotel companies that examined their respective markets and made bold steps to move forward. “In the early 90’s Marriott Corporation shifted their corporate focus from building hotels to operating franchises. Part of their new vision included entering the Senior Living Market with a concept called Brighton Gardens. With a multi billion-dollar portfolio who better to have expertise in creating living and dining environments? By the end of 2002 a competitor purchased Marriott’s 126-property portfolio located in 29 states with a resident capacity of 23,157. Their fatal flaw: they built buildings remarkably well, but had little understanding of what their residents actually wanted or needed. The environments had no community.”
“Fast forward to 2016: InterContinental Hotel Group launches EVEN, a wellness hotel complete with rooms, amenities, menus and programming tailored to their guests’ lifestyle needs. This hotel was designed from the inside out, starting with the guests and ending with the structure. An intimate knowledge of what a market wants is key to creating an environment that provides the proper ROI.”
How to Avoid Becoming a Nominee in the “Un-built Project” Category
The first step is to NEVER allow the design to drive your project. From the earliest possible moment your project should be grounded in reality. Sound programming coupled with market and financial analysis will result in a solid warranted investment strategy, which will ensure the financial success and sustainability of your project.
Brad Smith Associates, Inc. is a mold-breaking exterior planning and design firm serving the aging services industry. Our approach puts people first, focusing on their unique needs while cultivating a deep sense of community. That is done by using a rational problem-solving method, infused with Imaginality™, combining the five key components of PLACE-Creation into our designs:
Planning - Applied foresight to achieve your project goals
Lifestyle - Delivering a better result for people by understanding their needs and lifestyles
Aesthetics - The aesthetics of a property speak to the "brand essence", greatly affecting marketing.
Community - a sense of meaning, identity and belonging for the people living there
Economics - informed decision-making on the front end during the design process can yield significant dividends on the back end (by reducing ongoing operations and maintenance costs).
We're landscape architects and planners by profession, and we love putting our talents to work to create value for you.
How can we help you maximize your potential in the marketplace? We'd like to learn more about how we can help you achieve great things - whether that involves planning new construction, making repairs or renovations, or completely repositioning your product offering. Let's have a conversation soon.