By Melinda Waldrop
Business is booming in the senior living industry, and that trend is likely to gather speed as an aging baby boomer population enters the picture.
A June 8 ribbon-cutting ceremony heralded the latest area entry into the Midlands’ growing retirement community landscape. The $47 million, 200,000-square-foot Wellmore of Lexington officially opened its doors as music played and attendees noshed on catered food – exactly two months after The Blake at Woodcreek Farms, an 88,000-square-foot senior living facility in Elgin, celebrated its grand opening.
Meanwhile, Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia is continuing full steam ahead with two new development projects. These include an assisted living and skilled nursing facility slated to open next year and an 81-unit independent living building scheduled for completion in spring 2020. Still Hopes also has preliminary plans to open another location.
“Demand will continue to increase, just because when you look at the numbers, the numbers continue to increase,” said Danny Sanford, Still Hopes executive director and CEO. “I do think that very often, developers who come in and out of our business see what they think is a gold-mine opportunity, and then three of them build to the same demographic, and then they’ve overbuilt. It’s a cycle.”
Still Hopes, which opened in 1977, maintains its industry footing because of its quality care and sterling reputation, Sanford said. “Always be looking forward,” he said. “That’s our philosophy.”
That view is shared by the two newest entries into the area marketplace. The Blake Management Group oversees 13 properties in South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, including two under development in Summerville and Indian Land. The 2,300-acre assisted living and memory care community at the entrance to the Woodcreek Farms features walking trails and a golf course and includes resident activities and dining, along with a 24-hour-a-day registered nurse.
The Blake’s Facebook page includes a video of staff members and residents proclaiming, “I’m changing senior living.”
That’s also a goal of Wellmore, an arm of Charlotte-based Maxwell Group developers, which opened Wellmore of Tega Cay in 2015. The Lexington community will offer assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation, along with a full-service wellness center and gourmet dining.
“There’s really nothing that’s high-end like this in the surrounding area,” said Josh Thompson, Maxwell Group vice president of marketing. He said Wellmore of Lexington was around 40% presold before its grand opening.
“It’s way ahead of what you typically see industry-wise,” Thompson said.
Still Hopes will open HealthPointe, an assisted living and skilled nursing facility, next year. That facility will have three 16-bed “households,” said Still Hopes marketing director Stewart Rawson, each with its own dining and living room.
In 2020, WellPointe, with 81 independent living apartments, will open. The one- and two-bedroom units will feature kitchenettes and will adjoin Still Hope’s wellness center.