Charlotte’s senior housing market is booming. Here are 3 key trends

General Manager Jay Seymoure walks onto the back yard patio at the Graham, a model home at Trilogy Lake Norman, a large retirement community with up to 1,600 homes planned, on Jan. 5, 2015.
General Manager Jay Seymoure walks onto the back yard patio at the Graham, a model home at Trilogy Lake Norman, a large retirement community with up to 1,600 homes planned, on Jan. 5, 2015.

It seems as though Charlotte is being taken over by breweries and millennial-friendly apartments with dog spas – but don’t lose sight of the city’s other housing boom, in residences for people 55 and older.

Charlotte firm BB+M Architecture is pushing into the “senior living” market and last week named Scott Rasner to oversee its operation. He said the Charlotte region is an attractive place both for retirees and people moving to be closer to their children and grandchildren, many of whom are also transplants.

“It’s a very approachable large city that combines affordability, reasonable cost of living and a good climate,” said Rasner, along with major league sports teams and cultural amenities. He’s designed senior living projects for almost three decades.

The major surge of new senior living communities restricted to people aged 55 and older in Charlotte isn’t monolithic. Some, like Trilogy Lake Norman and Cresswind Charlotte in Mint Hill, consist mostly of for-sale, single-family houses. Others, such as Overture Cotswold, at the former Masonic Temple site on Randolph Road, are rental apartments. And existing senior communities such as Aldersgate and Sharon Towers across Charlotte are building more residences.

New developers are pushing into the Charlotte market to build more 55-plus, age-restricted housing. Charleston-based Greystar is building not just Overture Cotswold, but Overture Providence, just south of Interstate 485 in the Rea Farms development on Providence Road. Texas-based Stream Realty Partners is developing hundreds of apartments for seniors under its new Soléa brand name. In Indian Land, S.C., Florida-based Starling said last week it is developing a new, 230-unit senior living community.

Homes under construction at Trilogy Lake Norman, a large retirement community with up to 1,600 homes planned, photo taken on Jan. 5, 2015. Robert Lahser

Here are three key trends in Charlotte’s senior boom:

▪ The number of people in Mecklenburg County aged 65 and older, the primary demographic for most senior housing, has grown sharply, shooting up by more than 27 percent from 2010 to 2015 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The percentage of people in Mecklenburg County aged 55 and older, who are eligible to move to senior housing, has increased quickly. In 2015, about 20 percent of county residents were over age 55. That’s up from about 16 percent in 2000.

That’s creating a big demand for senior living. Rasner said up to 20 percent of the U.S. population could be living in senior housing over the next few decades, an enormous increase in the size of the market.

▪ The baby boomers moving into senior housing want high-end amenities and a noninstitutional lifestyle. Rasner said developers are responding with more amenities focused on “wellness,” such as Tai Chi gardens, luxury spas, meditation spaces, multiple dining options ranging from formal steakhouses to grab-and-run cafes and even shared office space for seniors who want to keep working part-time.

“Providers are trying to increase interest in their product through some of these niceties that they’re adding,” said Rasner. “On the activity side, there’s way more variety of activities than there used to be.”

Jay Seymoure, general manager, of Trilogy Lake Norman, talks about the retirement community.

Masons erect brick facades at The Landing at Park Road on Tuesday, August 30, 2016. John D. Simmons

And rather than just having apartments in a single large building, like many senior living facilities, newer communities tend to have a range of housing options, from individual houses to small townhouses, for-sale condominiums and large apartment facilities, often with an assisted living facility included that residents can segue into if needed.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all anymore,” said Rasner. “Consumers are demanding choice.”

▪ Mixing in senior living with other kinds of housing, shops and restaurants is becoming more common. Many of the large, mixed-use developments underway in Charlotte, such as Rea Farms, now include age-restricted housing alongside regular apartments and houses.

Rasner said that can benefit developers, who get to spread the cost of shared amenities such as parks more broadly, and seniors, who aren’t walled off and have better access to activities.

“Developers see opportunity in large mixed-use projects,” said Rasner. “Seniors don’t want to be isolated. There’s a lot of retirement communities that hide behind brick walls in suburbia. The trend is away from that, so they’re part of a larger community.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo