By all appearances, The Canyons mixed-use development in Portland, Oregon is an upscale new multifamily community. But the property stands apart in one big way: its target residents are people who might otherwise move into senior housing.
To be clear, The Canyons is not age-restricted. But with universal design elements built into every unit and a range of services that might appeal to older adults, the property carries much of the appeal of an active adult community.
And that is by design. With features and amenities suited for both older and younger people and rates that fit both property types, the community exemplifies one possible direction for the senior housing industry in the years to come. In particular, it may serve as a potential model for the burgeoning active adult sector, which is experimenting with new formats to serve the next generation of senior housing residents.
The goal of Kaiser + Path was to create a community that would have a ratio of about 70% older adults and 30% younger residents. Currently, the community’s older adult residents range from about 70 to 85 years old.
The idea for the community came from older adults themselves, according to Ben Kaiser, owner of Kaiser + Path. About three years ago, when the project was just getting off the ground, Kaiser polled residents in assisted living and active adult communities on their preferred living settings.
“The majority of the people we polled — and we polled quite a few — said they kind of liked the idea of a mixed building,” Kaiser told Senior Housing News. “We have some elderly folks using canes to get around, and then we have a 28-year-old coming and going … and I like that mix.”
The Canyons opened during the Covid-19 pandemic and thus has been slower to fill up than initially expected. But with the backing of a large Japanese investor, Kaiser is poised to expand the model in the years to come once that property stabilizes.
For young and old
Although much of the community’s design was undertaken with older adults in mind, The Canyons comes equipped with amenities and services that appeal to all ages. Chief among them is a concierge service staffed by three full-time employees — a selling point that Kaiser believes is unique compared to other residential buildings on the east side of Portland.
“There is immediately a relationship with someone at the front desk that gets to know you and your habits,” Kaiser said. “And then as you age, we have the availability of food service and eventually in-home care, a la carte.”
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All of the community’s 70 units follow universal design principles, with features including curbless walk-in showers, adjustable-height kitchen counters and grab rails in all of the hallways. At the same time, Kaiser said the community was designed to look and feel like any other multifamily property.
“A 30-year-old would tour the building and not know our intent is to have it as an active adult [community], ” he added.
Other amenities include a shared laundry room with an optional white-glove laundry service, shared community room, a workout facility and a wellness room that offers massage, nail care and physical therapy. Some of the amenities are included because of anticipated future demand among residents, according to Kaiser.
Rates start at a little more than $2,500, which is below what independent living rent generally costs in the Portland area but a little more expensive than a typical multifamily community.
Although the community does not provide care or meal services like an independent living community might, doing so is not Kaiser’s goal. Instead, he envisions the community as a place where older adults can live and age at their own pace, with the option for organizing added services on top of housing should they need them.
The community opened about eight months ago, and so far residents have filled 17 of the community’s 70 units. Kaiser also leases another 22 units on the building’s first two floors to a startup company called Barsala, which rents fully furnished apartments to tenants for short-term stays. Although that arrangement started as a way to “get over the Covid hump,” Kaiser now thinks having what is essentially a hotel on site will be a perk for prospective tenants.
“It keeps the building quite vibrant,” he added.
Kaiser’s immediate goal is to stabilize the community and bring its census up during the ongoing senior housing recovery. But beyond that, the company sees more opportunities to play in the active adult/multifamily hybrid space.
Kaiser is backed by Tokyo-based investor and real estate company Hoosiers Holdings, which includes senior housing among its different property types. And if all goes according to plan in Portland, this will be the beginning of what Kaiser does in the space.
“[We want] to do more here in the northwestern United States,” Kaiser said. “As well as to take the concept, once we figure out the kinks, back to Japan.”