Old Town in north Columbus lands upscale senior living complex

PR From the Ledger-Enquirer

A senior living company out of Birmingham, Ala., is now joining the wave of new properties coming to the Columbus market, with its $26 million project destined for the Old Town mixed-use neighborhood on the city’s north side.

Atlas Senior Living plans to locate what it is calling a high-end complex on about eight acres of 300-acre Old Town, with its future site set back from a lake farther into the wooded property.

Scott Goldberg, the company’s co-president and chief executive officer, said Thursday that current plans call for breaking ground on the senior living structure in the first quarter of 2018, with construction taking 16 to 18 months. That would put its opening sometime in the second quarter, or spring, of 2019.

“We think we’ve struck gold with our location, and being a part of the Old Town development,” the CEO said. “We looked at quite a few different sites. But as soon as we saw Old Town, we said this is where we want to be … We’re happy to play a small part in that development and look to fit in with it and try to add value to that great, wonderful master development just like everyone else has.”

Goldberg and Wyman Hamilton, co-president and chief operations officer of Atlas Senior Living, said the Columbus property will be similar to its recently opened complex in Lexington, Ky. That one, called “Legacy Reserve at Fritz Farm,” has 167 total units on multiple floors, with 114 of them geared toward more-active independent living residents. Another 38 units are for assisted living residents, with 15 earmarked for memory care.

What may end up being named, “Legacy Reserve at Old Town,” will have similar amenities that are offered at Spring Harbor at Green Island, the executives said. The complex off River Road, open more than a dozen years, is considered the premier senior living community in the Columbus market.

But there is a major difference between Spring Harbor and what Atlas and its financing and development partner, Louisville, Ky.-based DMK Development Group, are bringing to the city, said Hamilton, whose wife’s family lives in the Columbus area. His wife’s grandparents actually lived at Spring Harbor until passing away fairly recently, he said.

“The community we’re building is a high-end rental for independent living, assisted living and memory care,” Hamilton said. “Spring Harbor is an entry-fee community, and what that means … is residents that move in there have to pay a large upfront fee to move in and they get some benefits for that. We go after a little bit different niche. It’s a high-end product like Spring Harbor. However, it’s just a normal rental community. There’s no large buy-in.”

Goldberg, who noted that Atlas Senior Living also is planning a community in Greenville, S.C., said the Columbus property’s independent living atmosphere will have couples being visited by their extended family members, giving it an energy that traditional senior living complexes may not always have.

“That’s one of the learning curves that we still face as an industry, and that is people hear senior housing and some people, unfortunately, think of nursing homes, or they go straight to assisted living,” Goldberg said. “This product we’re going to produce in Columbus is going to be very vibrant, with the independent mix being the majority.”

Master-planned Old Town, which is located near the northwest intersection of Veterans Parkway and Williams Road, began coming out of the dirt and rocks of a former old family homestead in 2013. It started renting apartments in 2015, as well as constructing Southern Living-inspired single-family homes. It has added common areas as well, including commercial space that includes food establishments, retail and service businesses.

Genevieve Green, president of Columbus-based Woodruff Operating Company, which manages Old Town for businessman and property owner Calvin Koonce, said Thursday that senior living was not on the master plan early on.

“But we had acknowledged in the very beginning that it probably could be a very good component for Old Town,” she said. “We are excited about them coming because we think it satisfies another need in the community, and we think it’s a good fit for Old Town.”

Green said the senior living complex and its building will have to be a good fit visually for Old Town, which means its developer will be working within an architectural control process.

There are no major hurdles for Atlas in terms of the property’s zoning inside an already approved mixed-use development, she said. Woodruff Company and Atlas are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Division because of wetlands on the Old Town acreage that will need to be traversed as part of the project.

“So we’re doing all of the things we need to do,” said Green, who sees the senior living component of Old Town as “another option” for current and future residents looking to change their residential surroundings as their personal lives enter new phases.

“I do think that it offers another option for somebody who has reached a point in their life that they don’t want (home) ownership, but they want to be in a setting that would be comparable to what you see at a Spring Harbor or someplace like that,” she said.

The upcoming Old Town project comes with Atlanta-based Thrive Senior Living working on a 70-unit assisted living community at the corner of River and Mobley roads in Columbus. It is working with Columbus-based Flournoy Development Co. on that facility.

Another Atlanta-based company, The Diwan Group, is partnering with local businessmen on an $18 million assisted living and memory care community in the city’s Brookstone Centre business and medical park.

There also is a planned retail, restaurant and residential development in the Midland area of Columbus, with its Columbus-based owners saying that part of it will include a senior living facility on its back border that runs parallel with the city’s rails-to-trails path. The working name for that development off U.S. Highway 80 is Midland Commons.