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Three Living Architecture

Uplifting design in an upscale senior living setting

  • Written by: Molly Shaw
  • Produced by: Lindsay Jeffries

From Houston to Honolulu, San Antonio to Orlando, the nation’s baby boomers are looking to live the good life in their golden years and the senior living market is changing as a result. Since 2007, senior housing has been one of the strongest sectors in the lackluster housing market.

Today’s facilities are a far cry from nursing homes of the past as demand trends to more upscale living were communities feel more like resort than a hospital. “In today’s world it’s not about retirement, but extending active lifestyles,” explains Rocky Berg, principal of business development and architect with three: Living Architecture (TLA), a luxury hotel turned high-end senior living design firm.

“Now, it’s not just about country club settings, which was the trend in upscale senior living for many years,” continues Berg. “More and more of today’s retirees want an urban setting with all the amenities just outside their door – that’s where the industry is trending.”

When Berg says all the amenities, he means everything from golf greens to gourmet restaurants, fitness centers and spas to high-end shopping and civic venues; everything you could ever want. With the retirement boom in full swing and an improved housing market, the demand for chic communities with much more than the necessities is growing.

From necessity to luxury

“The market is shifting from people needing to move into an assisted-living or skilled nursing facility, because of health conditions, back toward independent living residences and continuing care communities,” expands Berg. “Since the residential market has improved, people are selling their homes for their expected value and can now afford to enjoy the benefits of active aging.”

Founded in 1983 by Gary Koerner, TLA’s forte has always been luxe hotels and resorts, but about 20 years ago the Dallas-based architectural design firm began its first of many senior living ventures. “We just crossed the 30-year mark being in business and we started out as a boutique hospitality design firm, doing boutique luxury hotels,” recounts Berg.

“Our hospitality work eventually expanded into resort design and planning, delivering four- and five-star type properties,” he continues. “But 20 years ago, Telesis, a client with multiple properties come to us asking us to incorporate our boutique hospitality expertise into a senior living project. We didn’t have any experience in the senior market but we did it per the client’s request.”

This request blossomed into a large portion of TLA’s scope of work and since then, the company has designed and overseen construction of more than 20 senior living communities and more than half a billion dollars in senior living construction. “We still operate like a small boutique firm with 25 employees based in Dallas,” says Berg. “We do work all across the globe as well.”

Today, from its home base in Dallas, TLA travels coast to coast, with a southern U.S. niche. “Our global work was once limited to hospitality but in the last 10 years we’re doing more senior communities in China and even the Philippines. There’s another project in the works in Costa Rica too.”

Settling into San Antonio

Berg says San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas remain strong markets and Florida is making a comeback. “Orlando is of interest and California is growing but it’s happening a little slower.”

TLA currently has a great deal of work underway in San Antonio, from turning the old Pearl Brewery into a upscale, boutique hotel catering to the city’s thriving culinary scene to an affluent assisted living and memory care community. “Construction recently commenced at Franklin Park’s Alamo Heights, an affluent part of San Antonio,” shares Berg. “We’re assisting in the design and oversight of the development.”

After several decades in the senior market, TLA has made a name for itself with big-name developers, including Formation Capital and Development. “We completed the $23 million, 195,800-square-foot Solano at Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas in 2009 with 126 independent living and 32 assisted living units,” details Berg.

In New Braunfels, Texas, TLA is nearing completion on EdenHill, a senior community that has been around for more than 100 years, but was in need for repositioning. “Working in collaboration with Greenbrier Development, we’ve revitalized the community through modern design complete with new independent living residents with below grade garage, new assisted-living and skilled nursing units, three new dining venues, an extensive wellness center and swimming pool area,” shares Berg.

However, one of Berg’s personal favorites is TLA’s Kahala Nui in Honolulu. “Developed by Greystone Communities, the $82 million project is situated on a beautiful hillside on Oahu overlooking Waialae Country Club, sharing a site with an Episcopal high school,” he notes. At 661,000 square feet, Kahala Nui includes 258 independent living units, 62 assisted-living rooms and 50 nurse care sites.

Living in Hawaii, the Hi Life, means living outdoors, entwined with the tropical paradise; TLA made a conscious effort to seamlessly weave the indoor and outdoor environment together. After all, innovative design should be more than a structure, but a means of uplifting the spirit. “That’s always been our mission; design that lifts the human spirit,” says Berg.

For 30 years, three: Living Architecture has been fulfilling its mission for hospitality, residential and senior living clients, transforming lives through experiential design.