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$92M expansion helps Naples luxury senior community attract boomers

Vi at Bentley Village in Naples has added four new buildings with larger units and the high-end touches that today's seniors look for.


  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 5:00 a.m. July 10, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Larger units with modern touches are key to Vi at Bentley Village's efforts to attract Baby Boomers who want more from senior living communities.
Larger units with modern touches are key to Vi at Bentley Village's efforts to attract Baby Boomers who want more from senior living communities.
Courtesy image
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When you think of senior living, a certain image might pop into your head.

Maybe it's an old age home, where residents gather in a communal room. A tinge of sadness might loom over the building. 

While that may be the case in some places, there is a Naples community that’s flipping that model as it caters to a clientele that expects more for its buck and has more bucks than most.

The property is Vi at Bentley Village on Retreat Drive off of Tamiami Trail near the Audubon Country Club.

“It's often described as being on a cruise ship that doesn't move, that doesn't leave the dock,” says Gary Smith, president and CEO of Chicago-based Vi Living, the company that owns the 156-acre Bentley Village.

The reason for that, he says, are the number of amenities available to residents and the levels of care. That “wealth of services,” as he calls it, includes golf, tennis, swimming, bocce ball and walking trails. And menus, he says, which are created by chefs using locally sourced cuisine and that “rival those of some of the finest dining establishments in the area.”

That may sound like hyperbole or a sales pitch. But Smith says in an ultra-competitive market like Naples there is a demand from residents for higher-end amenities. Moorings Park in Naples, some eight miles away, is one of the more well-known of those competitors. (Both Vi at Bentley Village and Moorings Park are known in the industry as Life Plan communities, a term formerly known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Life Plan communities traditionally offer independent living and on-site access to higher living of care, such as assisted living and/or skilled nursing.)

With those competitive market forces in mind, Vi is just finishing up a $92 million renovation that includes the construction of four new independent living buildings totaling 64 apartments.

Two of the buildings have already opened and the remaining two will open this summer. Entrance fees start at more than $2 million and go up to about $4 million, Vi officials say.

This recent redevelopment follows a $41 million transformation that included upgrading significant portions of the property’s skilled nursing center. The project, which will also be done this year, will include a 5,700-square-foot center with occupational therapy equipment, private treatment rooms and a therapy courtyard. Vi is also adding 84-one bedroom assisted living apartments and 15 memory support apartments.

Keeping the property fresh is one key to success, Smith says. That’s because Bentley Village’s greatest source of customers is referrals and word of mouth and its main competition is the home seniors don’t want to leave.

“We expect that maybe 10% of those who can move into one of our communities would be interested,” he says.

“And we think that penetration rate is going to increase over time as people become more familiar and comfortable with what senior living means now, compared to what it meant back in the 60s and 70s.”


Boomer boom

According to the industry publication seniorliving.com, senior living facilities in the U.S. trace their roots back to the years after the Revolutionary War, when the newly formed government approved pensions for the war’s veterans.

By the 19th century, there were nonprofit old age homes that offered room, board and care but the professional industry did not come into being until the late 1800s.

Vi at Bentley Village in Naples is a senior living community upping its game with luxury touches as it looks to attract Baby Boomers who demand more.
Courtesy image

In 1959 Congress approved a measure that expanded services for older adults and, according to seniorliving.com, paved the way for seniors to get modern affordable independent housing.

Much has changed in the intervening years with a population that is living longer and, with Baby Boomers at, near or into retirement age the demand is higher for both space and all the extras.

An American Seniors Housing Association report issued last year found that nearly 60% of Baby Boomers believe they will move in the next four years, possibly to a retirement community.

Ranked among their top demands for a new place to live are full kitchens, laundry rooms with washer and dryer, living rooms and windows with natural light. Up to 83% of the respondents say exterior home maintenance, lawn and landscaping, 24-hour security and maintenance of appliances in residences are “essential or desirable.”

And about half of those who say they are “likely to or unsure if they would move to a senior living community,” walking trails, on-site storage, indoor fitness centers, activity rooms, convenience stores, family-friendly lounges and ATMs are essential or desirable.

While what respondents want may not be surprising, the expectations are changing how the senior living industry must adapt to serve this growing clientele.

ASHA President and CEO David Schless puts it bluntly. In the coming years, he says, 76 million boomers will move into senior housing and “it's imperative that industry leaders understand the Baby Boomers' expectations so they can meet their needs and position themselves for success.”

Smith says Vi is doing just that. 

The units in the latest expansion include five new floor plans that range in size from about 2,400 square feet to 4,500 square feet. Each of the apartments comes with a screened-in outdoor living balcony; a semi-private elevator; a great room with open kitchen, dining, and living space; a den; and walk-in closets. The units also have two garage spaces for cars and one space for golf cart parking.

“Even though they're retired, they want to continue the lifestyle they've been enjoying, and be able to participate in lots of different activities, and to continue learning and to have new experiences,” he says.

And that works just fine for his company which, he says, was founded “with the desire (and) the goal to bring hospitality to senior living.”


Meet the need

Vi was founded in 1987 and today operates 10 facilities under the life plan community model. Three of those are in Florida and the remaining seven are mostly in the western U.S.

The company, in a document explaining its services, describes its life plan communities as offering “the most comprehensive plan for care, and typically includes unlimited access to available care services with little or no increase in a resident’s fees.”

Vi at Bentley Village's redevelopment includes larger units with the amenities today's seniors are asking for.
Courtesy image

Vi bought Bentley Village in 1992.

Smith says at the time the original developer had built two phases. Each had about 180 units, two clubhouses and a nine-hole golf course.

Vi built a third phase in 1999, adding just under 200 units and another nine holes of golf.

Phase four followed in 2014 and included replacing the original clubhouses, redesigning five holes of the golf course and adding 72 independent living apartments in one building. With the new clubhouses came three full-service restaurants, a theater, fitness center, lap and recreation pool and a library. 

Four years later, 51 apartments were added as well as a golf studio and three more holes were redesigned.

The $92 million project is the sixth phase and, when it is complete Bentley Village will have 607 units.

In all Vi says, it has spent $300 million on the community in the past 10 years.

“Older adults, now more than ever, really have high expectation for their retirement years and the place that they'll call home during that time,” says Smith.

“And they should have high expectations.”

 

author

Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the deputy managing editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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