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Prospective business deals stream in weekly to the offices of Sarasota-based senior living industry executives Steve Roskamp and Greg Patterson.

The calls come from landowners, developers and all around tire kickers — anyone with a piece of dirt in town who knows the pair has had an uber-successful run in the business. That covers three decades, at least four states and condos and care for more than 10,000 residents.

But the possible deals usually fall short of a contract, for a variety of reasons. “You wind up dancing with a lot of folks,” says Roskamp, whose father, Bob Roskamp, had his own distinctive career in senior living and has given millions of dollars to the Roskamp Institute, an Alzheimer's disease research center in Sarasota.

If Patterson and the younger Roskamp's latest project is a success it could trigger an even greater run on calls for help. The project is a counterintuitive approach to memory care, the senior living industry's trend du jour. The strategy: build a series of small complexes that make up a neighborhood instead of the traditional multiple towers that house residents in a bulk setting.

“The idea is to have a more family-like feel,” Roskamp says. “Others are doing a lot of bells and whistles, but ours are very low tech.”

Roskamp and Patterson's firm, Sarasota-based Freedom Senior Management, is partnering on a neighborhood project following this model called Pathways in Goodyear, Ariz. Freedom owns a small piece of the project and will provide management services for the majority owner, Premises Properties.

Freedom has also brought the concept to the Gulf Coast. That project is two 18-unit buildings under construction at Jacaranda Trace in Venice, a senior living community Freedom has overseen since 2002. The $5 million project could be completed by November.

“We aren't aware of any model like this in our area,” says Roskamp, a principal at Freedom Senior Management. “We think this is the right way to go for memory care.”

It's also a more expensive way, given the sheer need for more of everything, from kitchens to windows to employees.

Several other Gulf Coast senior living firms target memory care with a different tactic. Those entities, including Cypress Cove at HealthPark Florida in Fort Myers and Autumn Senior Living in Sarasota, are in a race to build big, and build first. Those companies, just like Freedom Senior Management, follow the projections of a major increase in the need for dementia and Alzheimer's care over the next decade. (See Business Observer, Jan. 31.)

While Roskamp and Patterson are confident their strategy will resonate with residents and families, they realize there are several challenges. Patterson, for example, has occasional nightmare flashbacks to the 1990s, when assisted-living facilities were the senior living industry obsession. That led to the eventual overbuilt bubble. “All you hear about is all the growth in memory care,” says Patterson, a principal and the lead attorney at Freedom Senior Management. “We hope we are going to be smart enough to learn from that.”

Another challenge is the neighborhood model depends on more and better-trained staff, which, of course, is an additional cost. Then there's the sheer unknown of doing something in a market no one else is doing. “We are learning about this,” says Patterson. “We will see who this appeals to. The market will tell us.”


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