Focus, Health Care, and Real Estate

First & Main wants to be first choice of seniors

Granger Group’s partnership could lead to more than 60 developments.

October 30, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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First & Main
The entryway into a First & Main development is designed to have a community feel and features an open atrium and café bookstore. Courtesy Granger Group

The first residents were just moving into Granger Group’s First & Main of Metro Health Village when it was announced the concept would be taken cross country through a partnership with AIG Global Real Estate.

The deal will take the partners through at least four years, which will result in approximately 60 of the modern senior living projects across the Midwest, said Jason Granger, senior vice president of corporate development at Granger Group. Each project will cost between $28 million and $30 million. Each First & Main building houses 102 rooms.

As the partnership with AIG was announced, the first five projects were, as well: three in the Detroit area and two in the Columbus, Ohio, area.

“It’s exciting for us,” Granger said. “As long as they’re happy and we’re happy and perform, we’ll see where this goes.”

Expansion plans are aggressive and largely mapped out already, Granger said. Grand Rapids could see two or three more communities, while a majority will be in other Midwest communities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Greater Chicagoland and others in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

As the partnership expands past the initial four years, Granger said he expects First & Main communities to go coast to coast.

“We could have eight or 10 in a major metro area,” he said. “We’ll focus on where the demand and needs are and making sure we have a good brand strategy.

“We want to be a viewed as a brand of choice.”

The First & Main concept moves a majority of the communal spaces up near the front entrance and places an emphasis on making the community feel like a small downtown. It’s a stark difference from many senior communities located on the outskirts of cities, Granger said.

Along with a large open atrium and café bookstore, a variety of amenities line the hallway: chapel, theater, salon, bistro, patio, fitness center and a courtyard with a putting green and gardens.

“We want to make it a gathering place,” he said, explaining there are three rules to ensure the facility seems new. “It can’t look old, smell old or feel old.”

The new construction of the First & Main communities offers an advantage over existing senior living communities, Granger said. Although new construction is capital intensive, it offers First & Main an opportunity to ensure it has the latest in medical technology to help hospitals and the community keep track of its residents.

Residents are equipped with fitness tracker-type bracelets that help provide vitals, and chips that control access to the community and residents’ rooms.

Health technology is expensive, but starting from scratch allows First & Main to provide all the best services.

“All these pieces of our community aren’t groundbreaking ideas,” Granger said. “We’re just taking ideas we liked and integrating them. It was easier to do this building from the ground up rather than acquiring other communities.”

Approximately 45 percent of residents’ rooms at First & Main are situated in the memory care floor. The care is personalized and does its best to keep them active.

“It’s an area we’ll see a huge demand for in the future,” Granger said. “The industry isn’t prepared for it, so we’ll do what we can to ramp up for it.”

The preparation also goes into the other rooms, as well, as health care and assisted living will need to be further integrated in the future, Granger said.

“We took a lot of interest in figuring out how this can be adaptable and fluid,” he said.

Of primary concern were security and safety, a nurse-on-call system, wander management and movement technology. Many of the technological integrations allow staff to learn the daily habits of residents.

It’s all in an effort to get on par with the health care management systems hospitals are using, so a hospital can have up-to-date records on a day-to-day basis.

To help manage the First & Main brand, Granger Group partnered with Atlanta-based Thrive Senior Living, a similar set of 17 technology-focused senior living communities in the Southeast. Thrive’s principal, Jeramy Ragsdale, has been an integral part of shaping First & Main, Granger said.

First & Main’s origin was based on figuring out how senior communities fit into the future. Granger feels they’ve accomplished that.

“We want residents to feel less captive,” he said. “We want them to feel a part of a community and live their life the same way they always did.”

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