Holland Home Now Has A Full House

July 11, 2003
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KENTWOOD — After opening a retirement neighborhood a year ago, Holland Home is building another one nearby that should be finished in December.

And while the state's second-largest provider of retirement homes is targeting its latest project for the current crop of seniors, the firm has already begun making plans to meet the living needs of their baby boomer sons and daughters who will start exiting the work force in about 10 years.

Holland Home last June opened Breton Terrace, an independent living neighborhood and part of the Breton Woods community.

The Terrace has 81 apartments, a fitness center, a restaurant, a library, a state-of-the-art woodworking shop, a bank, a hair salon, a computer-learning center, a billiards room, an art studio, and 60 condo-style homes surrounding it.

Another 22 duplexes are under construction there, near what Holland Home calls "a beautiful, wooded ravine" just off Breton Avenue near 44th Street SE.

Breton Woods Director of Business Development and Marketing LouAnn Shawver told the Business Journal that Holland Home launched the Breton Terrace project four years ago on what was then 43 acres of nothing.

A few months later, the firm had two model homes and a sales office on the site. A few years later, construction was done. Then things really took off.

"By the time we opened the building, 75 percent of those apartments were sold last June, which is pretty unusual. Then by the end of December, they were all gone," said Shawver.

"Then we began construction on the next phase of apartments. Fifty-one apartments have been under construction since late last fall. Thirty-four of the 51 in the next building are already sold," she added.

"We only have 17 left and that building will open in December."

Since sales are moving at a faster clip than Holland Home can build units, Shawver believes the quality of the firm's products has a strong appeal to seniors.

She also feels the reputation of Holland Home and its extended tenure in serving seniors — the firm has been in business for 111 years — also receive high marks with its customers.

"We've got a very solid reputation and we're creating neighborhoods.

"We're creating a neighborhood where people can live, be very vibrant and stimulated, and enjoy their lives," said Shawver, who added that Holland Home is well above the national average for sales.

Product demand slowed while the major fighting was going on in Iraq, but sales picked up again in May and continued briskly in June. Over that 60-day period, Holland Home sold 16 units at Breton Terrace.

Shawver said she sees the demand for living space continuing when baby boomers retire, as expected with the generation's mass membership.

But she also sees their needs as different from those of their parents and that means Holland Home must make some adjustments to meet those needs.

For instance, boomers grew up enjoying more living space and more conveniences than the WWII generation ever dreamed of having.

They've become accustomed to that style of living and will want that the same in their retirement homes.

"The baby boom generation certainly creates great opportunities, and Holland Home has 68 additional acres of land right here that we haven't built on. We're in discussions of how we are going to develop that land," said Shawver.

Look for Holland Home to begin developing that property in about five years.

Also look for the homes and apartments to offer more space and more built-in amenities. But meeting that change in lifestyle patterns also presents Holland Home with a fiscal challenge. 

The changes are likely to raise the cost of products to customers, a price tag that some boomers may not be able to afford. If that situation does pop up, Holland Home could find itself with fewer people to market to, and, in turn, not be able to meet the needs of as many people.

The company, however, has already started facing that challenge.

"As we design the next phase of homes, how are we going to meet the financial needs of more people? Our products will be varied because we want to be inclusive and not exclusive.

"So we're looking at how do we put in a product mix that meets the needs of many people," said Shawver.

This isn't the first time Holland Home has taken on this type of challenge.

Shawver said Breton Terrace was developed to meet various lifestyles. Prices there start at $85,000 and go as high as $200,000. The firm, she said, tried to make that neighborhood affordable for as many people as possible.

Still, what will be considered affordable 10 years from now?

No one is really sure, though Shawver said Holland Home would start tackling that question next month.

But she also pointed out that price wasn't the only reason why retirees have chosen Breton Woods or Raybrook, a similar Holland Home continuing-care retirement community.

"They come here knowing that they are signing a life-care agreement with us," she said.

"What they are buying is peace of mind, because they know if anything happens to them, they're going to be taken care of somewhere in the Holland Home system of care."

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