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John Boyd: Housing Retired Baby Boomers Is All About Amenities

John Boyd: Housing Retired Baby Boomers Is All About Amenities

As director of real estate development at Opus Group, John Boyd is part of a $2.1 billion national real estate development firm. The Minneapolis-based company has 2,100 employees located in 28 North American offices. Prior to joining Opus, Boyd was principal of Phoenix-based Atrium Real Estate Group. The 15-year real estate veteran is a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Today, Boyd directs real estate development out of the firm's Phoenix office. In April, Opus broke ground on a 190-unit senior living apartment complex in Phoenix. The project, Toscana at Northern, will be completed in mid-2008. Boyd says that Toscana's "amenity rich" approach will make it more attractive to well-heeled Baby Boomers. He's also anticipating a wave of demand for seniors housing from this demographic: By the year 2010, the Census Bureau projects that an estimated 100 million Americans — roughly one third of the nation — will be 50 or older.

NREI: Opus West is extremely bullish on Arizona's seniors housing market. But what's the most appealing aspect of this market from your standpoint?

BOYD: Demographically, the growth in this population segment is accelerating. Although aging, many of today’s seniors remain active and independent. Apartment communities that cater to the independent seniors offer an amenity rich, turnkey lifestyle.

NREI: How will the amenities of Toscana at Northern differ from your older seniors housing projects?

BOYD: The basic amenity package has been enhanced. In addition to the basic amenity package, Toscana will include a full-service day spa and wellness center. Basic amenities include concierge, beauty salon, workout room, theater, restaurant, bistro/café, pool, spa, chapel, arts and crafts rooms, library, pub/lounge and outdoor program space.

NREI: On that note, are retiring Baby Boomers a tough demographic to please? What are they demanding from their retirement facilities that predecessor retirees did not?

BOYD: Today’s seniors are demanding larger apartments, resort style services and facilities, and individualized attention. Seniors are also becoming more technologically sophisticated. Our units are wired for high-speed Internet and the common areas allow for wireless Internet access.

NREI: Metro and greater Phoenix have clearly lured droves of seniors in recent years. In your opinion, why haven't other high-quality seniors housing developers like Opus tapped the growing number of finicky retirees moving to Arizona?

BOYD: The industry is slowly responding to the new demands. This response comes in a number of different forms. Of the few new projects that have been developed, most are licensed assisted living or graduated care facilities that provide for higher levels of care. We are focused on the full-service, independent living developments. These types of developments do not require licensing that assisted facilities require.

NREI: Beyond Arizona, what other areas of the country do you see as hotspots for new seniors housing in the coming years?

BOYD: The Sunbelt markets tend to have large seniors populations and are prime for this sort of housing. However, the need for this sort of senior housing isn’t limited to typical retirement markets. Many seniors have established roots in the communities in which they lived most of their lives and ultimately do not move away after retirement.

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