Best Independent Living Design of 2021: LCS Community Expansion Adds Hospitality Flair – Senior Housing News

Since its opening in 2010, LCS’ Sagewood life plan community has focused on offering resort-style senior living in Phoenix, Arizona. A recent second-phase expansion project has deepened that focus.

The expansion — part of the community’s second construction phase — added a 101-unit independent living building, an underground parking garage and amenities such as activity and game rooms, an art studio, cafe, three unique dining venues and an 18-hole golf putting course with real grass instead of turf.

The project’s design also wove in colors and materials from the Southwest, such as earth tones and stucco finishes. Today, the second-phase expansion is almost totally occupied, a testament to the quality of its design, amenities and services.

All of this helped the project snag top accolades in the 2021 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards’ “Best Independent Living” category.

The concept

Planning for Sagewood’s more than $60 million second phase began about four years after Sagewood opened in 2010.

Owner and operator Life Care Services wanted to build upon the community’s existing hospitality flair. LCS Development collaborated with the architects and designers at Todd & Associates and Spellman Brady & Company, which were both involved in the first phase at Sagewood.

LCS had several goals to meet with the design from the start, including adding 101 independent living units and a range of upscale amenities, including three unique restaurants all carrying different themes.

The original concept also included a high-tech “community room” on the new building’s first two floors. But as the design started to come together, it became apparent that the room didn’t mesh with the independent living building and amenities as originally planned, according to Steve Zbylicki, senior design manager with LCS Development.

“We actually pulled it out [out of the design], and now it’s just right across the street,” Zbylicki told Senior Housing News. “That changed the project somewhat, but it just became its own little project.”

The project’s designers also spent a good amount of time planning the community’s three dining venues, The Sonoran, The Canyon Cafe and The Owl’s Nest. An interior design from Spellman Brady & Company in particular helped bring the venues’ interior design alive.

In The Sonoran venue, fine dining was the focus. Project planners repurposed part of an existing restaurant, the Palo Verde Dining Room; and an adjacent administration area to create the restaurant, which is bedecked in custom wall covering and local artwork. The space, which seats about 50 people inside and 30 outside, also has a custom ceiling inspired by local rock formations.

The designers also redesigned another space on the ground floor — an underutilized cafe and convenience store — into The Canyon Cafe. The space was designed for flexibility, with a full kitchen serving food all day and different seating options, including a reading nook. The cafe also has a backlit display shelf to signal to residents that it is open for happy hour in the early evening.

On the new independent living building’s fourth floor sits The Owl’s Nest, a full-service tapas bar overlooking the nearby McDowell Mountains. The space incorporates a circular motif, with a rounded bar, metal fireplace and ceiling pattern, all accentuated by wooden beams and decorative screens that are both appealing to the eye and meant to control acoustics. The space also includes a gaming lounge beset in earthy warm hues and natural textures.

The site was occupied at the time of the project’s planning, requiring some creativity in working around the community’s residential living and administrative spaces, recalled Todd & Associates Senior Project Manager Doug Sexton.

But all in all, the design process was a relatively smooth one, and construction was able to kick off as planned in 2019.

  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS
  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS
  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS
  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS
  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS
  • svg%3E Courtesy LCS

The construction

From the get-go, the Sagewood project required careful planning and attention to detail. The biggest challenge in building the Sagewood phase-two expansion was the fact that it had to occur inside of a living, breathing life plan community, according to Boe Evanson, senior project manager at general contractor The Weitz Company, which was also involved in the first phase.

“We were building this 300,000 square foot, 100-unit addition to their campus right in the heart of their campus,” Evanson said.

The addition was also linked to an existing lobby area, which also complicated the planning process.

“We … coordinate a lot of tie-ins to the existing building systems — electrical, mechanical plumbing systems — and do it all with no interruptions to day-to-day life for all the residents,” Evanson added. “That was probably the biggest challenge that we faced on the job.”

Covid-19 posed a particular challenge during construction, as it did with other projects that got underway shortly before the pandemic.

Weitz mitigated those challenges by putting together a Covid action plan that included measures like building clear entryways and paths that prevented coming into contact with residents. The company also assigned its trade workers to “pods,” wherein they would stick with the same group to limit the possible spread of the coronavirus should someone get sick.

Because the project team procured materials ahead of time, they did not have to deal with the Covid-related supply chain issues felt by other companies during the early days of the pandemic.

All in all, construction wrapped up on budget and earlier than expected, and the community was able to earn a full certificate of occupancy about three weeks ahead of schedule.

“It was a great team, and we were able to have a great result because we all work well together,” Evanson said.

The completion

One measure of a project’s success is how well it has leased up, and in that regard, Sagewood’s second-phase expansion gets high marks. Many of the community’s new independent living units were pre-sold even as construction was getting underway, and today it is almost completely full, according to Zbylicki.

  • svg%3E Owl’s Nest / Alise O’Brien Photography
  • svg%3E The Canyon Cafe / Alise O’Brien Photography
  • svg%3E The Sonoran / Alise O’Brien Photography

One unique selling point at the community today is its 18-hole championship golf putting course, which is covered in real grass instead of artificial turf.

“I’m not sure of any other place that has such a nice putting green,” Zbylicki added. “It seems like it’s always being used.”

The Sagewood project achieved and exceeded its goal of providing high-end, resort-style living, according to Cindy Shonaiya, principal at Hord Coplan Macht and a judge on this year’s Design Awards competition.

“The Sonoran desert themes highlight the artisanal southwestern accents throughout, which are the perfect foil for the eclectic ambience of its amenity spaces,” Shonaiya said. “The 18-hole putting golf course is outstanding, providing access to outdoor activities for its residents, without having to leave the community.”

The community’s design featuring warm tones and wood is “striking” and “bold,” according to Steven Levin, co-president of Hana2.0 Property Group and Design Awards judge.

“The interior is vibrant and lively with style,” he said.

Today, Sagewood is closer to its final vision thanks to its most recent expansion. Looking ahead, LCS is eyeing more construction phases that will potentially add more independent living units and additional amenities.

“I think we did a good job of creating something different, and new amenities that the residents were asking for,” Zbylicki said.