In Part I of this series, we learned that forward-thinking leaders are focused on transcending market expectations. They are keeping a close eye on market trends to ensure they don’t fall behind the competition. From assessing the condition of their physical plant to building consensus among board members and community residents, they are firmly planted in the present while preparing for the future.

In Part II, we explored the essential elements of the modern CCRC and how communities are focusing on branding to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace.

In Part III, we discuss the key ingredients for creating a successful master plan – a road map that will have your community transcending market expectations and paving the way rather than falling behind.

Creating a Master Plan

The Right Team

In order to facilitate your plans, you need a trusted team in place –a development consultant, an experienced architectural firm, engineering professionals, interior designer, landscape architect, contractor, owner’s rep etc. The people selected for this team are with you for an extended period of time. You want to work with people who maintain your best interests and share your vision. You want team members that will listen, provide valuable experience and expertise, and not be afraid to challenge the status quo. All team members should be committed to an open and communicative relationship.

“Hire people you like,” advises Renée E. Anderson, president & CEO of Saint John’s on the Lake inMilwaukee,WI. “You have tough conversations. If the entire team does not have the same vision and isn’t equally invested in the success of the project, not only will the outcome be in question, the process will be miserable.”

“Have a team that listens and is responsive,” describes Laurie Stallings, executive director of Cypress Glen Retirement Community inGreenville,NC.

When choosing an architectural firm consider the following:

  • Do they understand the unique nuances of the senior living industry?
  • Do they listen? Can they articulate your goals, visions, and objectives?
  • Do they share your vision?
  • Do you respect their expertise enough to allow them to educate you and explore possibilities you didn’t know existed?
  • Can they build consensus?
  • Can they manage a successful construction process?

When determining the right team members, some organizations choose to enlist the services of a development consultant, some work with an owner’s representative, and others choose to include both on the team. “I would recommend a dedicated project manager or owner’s rep for any project of significance,” saysAnderson. “It’s a huge undertaking and your plate is already full. Let an expert coordinate the architect, contractor(s), marketing, finance and owner; charge them with maintaining the budget and the schedule.”

For Jeff Evans, president and CEO of Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, PA success depends on the engagement of the right team combined with the proper organizational support. “Hire the best and stay appropriately engaged as part of the development. Listen to them, support when you can, and respect what they do. At the end of the project, it’s a reflection on the organizational leadership whether a project is delivered with quality, on time, and in budget, so your active engagement and support can make the difference.”

Communication is the Key

Together, the team needs to make tough decisions as they select the best course of action, a master plan that is in the best interest of the organization and its residents. From the early design stages to the completion of the plan to the construction phases as well as the closing of the project, open lines of communication are essential.

“Every professional at the table needs to stay within their areas of expertise but respect everyone else at the table,” says Stallings. “The team needs to be willing to listen and look at all of the options, not just set on a specific preconceived idea. Something great can come when you listen and look at something in a completely different way.”

“Communication is the single most important part of the process,” saysAnderson. “Not only does the team need to know who is going to do what by when, they and the rest of the stakeholders need to understand why it is being done.”

Explore All Options

The work you have done to understand your community–the state of your physical plant, your current and future market, and the distinguishing characteristics of your brand–is the foundation for the master planning process. Communicating this information to your team through written documents, meetings, interviews etc… is an important part of the preparation.

The ability of your team, and specifically your architect, to listen to the needs and wants of the stakeholders, understand the research and challenges, and acknowledge the project expectations, is an important first step in the master planning process. You have taken the time to share all of the insight you have gathered prior to engaging the architect. It is now up to the architect to weave all of this information into possible solutions – to make your vision a reality.

The initial exploration of a solution should include a wide range of ideas. Any and all possible options should be identified and discussed openly and candidly. The architect will investigate code issues, site conditions, budget and schedule limitations, and other factors that will influence the viability of the various ideas and options. A time will come in the process where narrowing down the options becomes imperative. The entire team needs to consider ideas that:

  1. “Right size” the campus
  2. Incorporate and anticipate industry trends
  3. Create appropriate functional relationships in the building
  4. Balance drama with efficiency in terms of space planning
  5. Enhance and strengthen existing amenities
  6. Include building, structural, and mechanical systems and construction technologies that are appropriate to the allowable budget

Building Consensus

Once all of the options are on the table, the process for building consensus involves the following steps:

  1. Team creates a “laundry list” of the desired alternatives
  2. Contractor assigns value
  3. Development consultant analyzes viability and feasibility
  4. Team selects appropriate solutions
  5. Phasing strategies are prioritized
  6. Master plan is finalized
  7. The final plans are shared with the appropriate community stakeholders

The Road Map

For the forward-thinking providers committed to transcending market expectations, the Master Plan is your Road Map. It guides you through a designated point in time with a certain level of flexibility to respond appropriately to new market and economic developments. A good plan relates back to your physical plant analysis so you have opportunities to make improvements at different levels: Repair – Renovate – Reposition – Replace.

The process that has been outlined in this article series provides the opportunity to build consensus at all levels of the organization so everyone knows there is a plan that supports the community’s brand. This plan is then championed by the board, organizational leadership and staff, and all important stakeholders. This insures that in the end, the bricks and mortar complement the programming and provide a marketable product with points of differentiation that will support existing residents while attracting new residents for years to come.

Your commitment to this process – this Master Plan – shows you are paving the way for the current and future success of your community.

East Ridge Retirement Village transformed an underutilized 4,100-square-foot open air pavilion into a state-of-the-art fitness and wellness center.