By Meghan Hall
Senior and independent living communities made headlines this spring when one such facility became one of the first to be hugely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. For those at Revel Communities, a division of The Wolff Company, plans for expansion are moving forward across the Puget Sound with two new hires in hand and a hospitality-based strategy aimed at tackling the challenges of growing its portfolio across the Western United States.
In August, Revel announced that Ginni Ryan had joined the company as the firm’s new senior vice president of operations, while Danette Opaczewski was hired as Revel’s executive vice president, resident experience and chief operating officer. Together, the two are working to put their respective backgrounds in the service industry to good use.
“It has been really interesting to learn the industry from the ground-up,” explained Opaczewski, who previously worked for Sydell Group, a hospitality owner, developer and operator. “I honestly was not looking into senior housing…but through a hospitality connection [I was] introduced to The Wolff Company and what they were trying to do. What their mission is really connected with me.”
The Wolf Company and Revel are working to pioneer a new model within the senior and independent living industries, one that shifts away from the traditional healthcare-based strategy. Instead, a hospitality-based ideology will drive Revel’s expansion, inspired by boutique hotels and offerings catered to residents’ needs.
“In terms of a healthcare-based model, it’s very regulatory intensive. It’s very clinically intensive,” said Ryan. “You have medications and med management and care plans. Those are all very important, but for an independent living resident who does not need that, they want to be with residents who are also independent.”
Revel Lacey—the firm’s first Puget Sound community—opened in 2018. The 135-unit community features an extensive number of amenities and services for residents, including a 24-hour concierge, housekeeping and laundry, transportation and a community-based travel club. A creative studio, where residents can partake in arts and crafts, as well as a fitness center, theater, spa and salon are also part of the community’s offerings. The “Revel” room serves as an event space for private parties and gatherings, and further entertainment can be found in the game room.
Additionally, Revel offers classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, virtual community events. With the advent of COVID-19, increased access to technology through tech cafes has also been implemented.
This fall, Revel has plans to open a second community in Issaquah. A third community, to be called Revel Kirkland, is planned to open in 2021. The ultimate goal is to tap into the wants and needs of their clientele—a key thread that also drives success and innovation within the hospitality industry.
“Hospitality for me is all about anticipating someone’s needs,” stated Opaczewski. “For example, the boutique hotel industry creates these spaces where you feel a certain energy, and you want to be a part of it. I believe that we can create those communities with that energy for independent living.”
Revel was attracted to the region for a number of reasons, including high job growth rates, a stable job market and strong economy. Revel is hoping to attract either those who are retiring, or a number of parents relocating to be near children who have recently migrated to the emerging tech-center that is the Puget Sound. And, noted both Opaczewski and Ryan, there were not too many independent living communities in the area.
“There wasn’t a lot of great independent living development going on,” said Ryan. “When The Wolff Company saw the need…they [jumped] in with three communities off the bat. We’re excited to work in that market.”
For some, Revel’s expansion comes at a time where senior living communities are under increased scrutiny. But the firm is optimistic about its future in the region. According to Opaczewski, Revel is still seeing leads come back and solid levels of move-ins. Revel and The Wolff Company are also pursuing a number of communities outside of the Puget Sound, including two new developments in Scottsdale, Ariz., one in Palm Desert, Calif., another in Folsom Calif., and a final Revel community in Texas.
“I got out of hospitality when it really crashed,” said Opaczewski. “But multifamily housing and senior housing are still needed…The industry will survive it, and from a real estate perspective, we are cautiously optimistic.”