East Memphis senior-living development approved after compromises

By Updated: May 09, 2019 4:16 PM CT | Published: May 09, 2019 3:45 PM CT

Plans for an upscale, senior-living community in East Memphis received unanimous approval of a planning board Thursday after developers reached an 11th-hour compromise with Audubon neighbors Wednesday night.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s a cruise ship on land,” David Dlugolenski said of the $75 million planned development designed to cater in an upscale way to seniors’ needs.

The community promises lush landscaping and architectural detailing, and will offer everything from tiled showers to bigger closets to valet parking for residents’ guests.

Dlugolenski is a developer with the Atlanta-based Sagestone Partners. Sagestone is partnering with local developer Kevin Adams and landowner RBM Cherry Road Partners on the planned development now called Oaks Edge.

Sagestone is also a partner with Adams on the $950 million Union Row development in Downtown.

The same East Memphis site had been approved in 2017 for the planned development for offices, with a 60,000-square-foot office building and 290 parking spaces. The Land Use Control Board on Thursday approved the request to change the plan for senior living.

“It’s a better use for the neighborhood than the office concept would have been,” Rawleigh Martin of RBM Cherry Road Partners said after the meeting. “That’s important to us. Long term, it solves the issue of Oaks Edge having an unknown:  What is it going to be in the future?”

The 17 acres comprise a park-like estate at the northwest corner of Cherry Road and Haverhill.

 The site plan shows a primary building in the middle surrounded by 60 single-family cottages, or patio homes. The central building will offer assisted living, skilled nursing, personal care services and memory care.

The main building is designed as a podium structure, with parking below. LRK is the architecture firm for the project.

The development will offer up to 240 living units, meaning the population there will be about 350 people, Adams said after the meeting.

Developers met at least four times in recent months with an Audubon Park Community Association committee. Neighbors have been concerned with how the senior-living community would affect the neighborhood’s character.

Resident Cathy Wilson addressed the planning board Thursday, but only to affirm that the developers compromised with neighbors, not to lodge any opposition.

“We had a lot of very long discussions,” Wilson said. “While we’d love to see this stay green forever, we know that will not happen.”

She indicated developers are still working with the association about landscaping details. But widening the landscape buffer between the development and the residents was a key part of the compromise.

Developers originally proposed a 15-to-25-foot landscape buffer between the development and Haverhill, but increased the width to 70 feet, said planning professional Michael Fahy, who represented the developers.

The development’s western border touches the backyards of some residences along Audubon Drive, including the home Elvis Presley bought, in 1956, at 1034 Audubon. The landscape buffer to those backyards is 70 feet, Fahy said.

Changes to the planned development still must be approved by the City Council.

Developers hope to start construction by the end of the year, Adams said.

Developing senior housing communities has been a core activity of Sagestone since the mid-1990s, Dlugolenski said. The company typically has 500 units under construction and about the same number in different stages of planning.

The future East Memphis community will be heavily service oriented, he said.

“We focus a lot on the operations and the marketing and really the event planning for the facility. Typically, we have house cars and community vans that will take people to their doctor appointments," Dlugolenski said.

The Arbor Company based in Atlanta will manage the senior-living community, where dining and wellness activities will also be a focus.

“The senior consumer is changing rapidly,” Dlugolenski said. “... They are a lot more demanding in terms of what they are looking for.”

Unlike some other upscale senior-living communities, Oaks Edge residents will not be asked to buy in to the facilities with equity. A “limited initiation fee” will be charged, but the housing will be rental products.

Before, more seniors wanted to own their residences, but that is changing, Dlugolenski said.

“The reality is, anyone over the age of 70 really shouldn’t own a lot of real estate because it’s too cyclical.

“We’re seeing a shift in that consumer preference because they are open to renting. They like not having to put down the 500 grand, or whatever it is,” he said.

The Sagestone-developed communities also include an ample mix of single-family housing. Many seniors are not ready for the more communal living of apartments, so the cottages provide a transitional option, Dlugolenski said.

Sagestone focused on Memphis for its next development because the city does not offer enough higher-end senior-living communities to meet demand, he said.

“Some of the more middle-income to affluent seniors are having to go out of state for quality care,” Dlugolenski said. “I think there’s a bit of a boomerang effect: People are moving out of state but still want to be here. They just don’t have the product here … We’re trying to fill that void of product.”

The 17 acres at 1023 Cherry Road are part of what originally was the 25-acre Butler residential estate. Promus Hotels bought the property for its headquarters in 1985, Harrah's Entertainment bought it in 1995, and Rawleigh Martin's father, Brad Martin, retired chairman and chief executive of Saks Inc., bought it about 20 years ago.

The Martins lease the north part of the old estate for Wright Medical's office headquarters.


Commercial Real Estate Senior Living Facilities Elvis Presley
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.

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