Real Estate News

Developer taps into demand created by Triangle’s growing senior population

Workers for Subsurface Construction Company of Raleigh, NC anchor sheets of wire mesh into an earth and stone wall Thursday, September 10, 2015 to be reinforced with shot concrete for the base of a retaining wall at the new Waltonwood at Lake Boone senior living facility.
Workers for Subsurface Construction Company of Raleigh, NC anchor sheets of wire mesh into an earth and stone wall Thursday, September 10, 2015 to be reinforced with shot concrete for the base of a retaining wall at the new Waltonwood at Lake Boone senior living facility. hlynch@newsobserver.com

With the Triangle’s job market proving itself to be among the best in the country in recent years, this region has been adding new residents at a faster rate than all but a handful of other metropolitan areas.

That population growth is driving demand for all sorts of real estate. An influx of millennials is helping fuel the apartment construction boom, while the single-family market has been buoyed by established families moving here in search of better-paying jobs.

Another area that is likely to benefit in the coming years is senior living communities, as older parents relocate to the Triangle to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

“We look to where there’s 40- to 64-year-olds, the children of our residents,” said Mike Kahm, a senior vice president with Singh Development, explaining why the Michigan company finds the Triangle so attractive. “Because they’re the primary magnet, if you will, for our residents.”

Singh, which opened an office in Cary in 2007, has recently begun construction on its second senior living facility in the Triangle, a 182-unit community off Lake Boone Trail in Raleigh.

The company opened its first senior living facility here five years ago in Cary, a 167-unit community called Waltonwood Cary Parkway that is 100 percent leased with a waiting list. It also operates senior living communities in Charlotte.

“A lot of the residents that moved into our Cary facility aren’t even from here,” Kahm said. “Their kids live here, and the kids have moved here for jobs.”

Singh’s $40 million Lake Boone Trail community, called Waltonwood at Lake Boone, will offer four different levels of care: 121 independent living units; 23 “support” units that provide residents with some assistance; 21 assisted living units; and 18 memory care units for Alzheimer’s patients.

The average age for residents entering Singh’s facilities is about 82. Kahm said Singh’s approach is to provide different levels of care in order for its residents to be able to remain in the same place as they age.

“Moving into these facilities in the first place is a pretty big decision for most folks,” he said. “You don’t want to add any additional trauma by having them move out.”

Singh’s facilities aren’t technically classified as a continuing care retirement community, or CCRC, although they share some similarities with such communities. The state regulates CCRCs to ensure that residents are receiving proper care and to make sure the projects are financially sound. Singh had to obtain state approval for its assisted living and memory care units, but not for the other units.

Singh’s facilities are based on a rental model, with residents signing 12-month leases. A resident would pay about $4,200 a month for a 1-bedroom independent living unit, which includes one meal a day, housekeeping, laundry, utilities and all the various activities that go on at the facility throughout the day.

“It’s a cruise ship that doesn’t go anywhere,” Kahm said of the company’s communities. “That’s the way it really functions, there are things going on from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night.”

Waltonwood at Lake Boone isn’t expected to open until the fall of 2017. The site where it is being built has about a 100-foot topography change, which makes for a slow and complex construction process.

Singh paid $4.5 million for its 6-acre site, which used to be home to The Palm Apartments. The company bought the land from Grubb Ventures, which is now constructing a 283-unit apartment complex called Sojourn Lake Boone adjacent to Singh’s site. Grubb’s apartments are expected to open in February.

Looking to expand

For Singh, a family-owned business founded in 1973, senior living is just one aspect of its development activities. The company also builds apartments and does land development for homebuilders in Michigan, northern Virginia and North Carolina. Kahm said land development opportunities for the company have been limited in the Triangle, where national and regional homebuilders that do such work themselves now dominate.

The company is looking to build apartments here. It specializes in apartments that feature detached garages, a product that Singh has made popular in Michigan but which is rare in this market.

The company had hoped to build such apartments on a 19-acre site in Cary, at the intersection of Evans Road and Cary Parkway, that it acquired for $4.25 million in 2007. But the town-approved master plan for the site calls for retail, and thus far Singh hasn’t been able to persuade town officials to revise that plan.

Kahm said there are so many retail centers and grocery stores in close proximity to the site that attracting tenants has been extremely difficult. Still, Singh is looking for more opportunities to expand its presence in the Triangle.

“We’re very bullish on Wake County and Charlotte, as well,” Kahm said. “And we’re looking to branch out into surrounding counties.”

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