701 Maiden Choice Lane
Today, all the men and women of Erickson Retirement Communities continue to strive to provide the best possible programs, the best possible living spaces and facilities, and the best possible service to seniors. We are preserving the commitment that John Erickson made to seniors almost two decades ago.
Erickson Retirement Communities (ERC) owns and operates several large-scale continuing care retirement communities that serve more than 10,000 middle-income retirees in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. The company also manages Henry Ford Village for the Ford Motor Company. At each community the company offers studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom independent living apartments, assisted-living apartments, and skilled nursing care, providing housing for the changing needs of residents as they age. The campuses are self-contained to meet most of the daily needs of seniors. Each site provides medical facilities and an emergency ambulance service, a pharmacy, health club, pool, convenience store, banks, hair salons, and a variety of fine and casual dining options. Special purpose rooms cater to resident hobbies and interests, including wood shops, music rooms, art studios, computer labs, card and game rooms, and classrooms for college courses taught by visiting professors. Closed-circuit television provides residents with a calendar of events and classes.
ERC's pricing strategy is designed to attract middle-income retirees who own their own home and receive a monthly pension and social security. For affordability, entrance fees are set at the value of a potential resident's home value. Rather than a life contract, ERC offers services on an as-needed basis and completely refunds the entrance fee to the resident or the resident's estate. Company founder John Erickson introduced the idea of a 100 percent refundable entrance fee to the retirement community industry.
Insight and Vision Leading to Company Founding
Before founding Erickson Retirement Communities, John Erickson owned and operated several golf course mobile home parks that catered to retirees in Florida. Erickson saw that for every 100 retirees who relocated from northern states to Florida, 20 remained in their hometowns. He recognized a need for continuing care retirement communities for senior citizens who chose to remain at home, particularly for middle income retirees who owned a home and received a pension and social security; most such facilities catered to wealthy or low-income seniors.
Erickson found a site for his first retirement facility while in Washington, D.C., on a business trip in 1981. An old friend told him that St. Charles College and Seminary intended to sell the school's property in Cantonsville, Maryland. Erickson canceled his return trip to Florida and went to the 110-acre site in suburban Baltimore. Erickson decided that the campus would be a good place for a retirement community. He obtained financing and began to renovate the campus buildings, originally naming the company Senior Campus Living (SCL). In October 1982 the company began to sell one-bedroom units for independent living and 200 residents moved to Charlestown Retirement Community, named for the college, in December 1983.
Erickson developed the property through a long process that allowed the company to produce income as renovation progressed. Over the course of a decade facilities expanded to accommodate 1,313 independent living units, 134 assisted living units, and 122 beds for 24-hour nursing care. By September 30, 1992, SCL had sold 1,287 apartment units and planned to accommodate an additional 300 apartments for independent seniors. As the campus evolved, Charlestown developed "neighborhoods" and central activity areas developed as "Main Street." At this time Charlestown offered residents six dining options, two banks, three hair salons, and a medical clinic employing four full-time physicians during the regular work week. Although the community started without any social programs, resident involvement shaped the community, initiating a wide array of social activities, hobbies, crafts, and college classes and creating 150 activity-based clubs. In addition to club activity rooms, other amenities included an aquatic center, paved walking paths, a computer lab, and a library of 10,000 books available for borrowing. A closed-circuit television studio aired a calendar of events.
The appeal of Charlestown to retirees originated with Erickson's ideas that a good retirement community rested on four pillars: independence, security, affordability, and convenient access to healthcare. In providing independence, Erickson envisioned a community that promoted an active social life for seniors while it freed them from the usual concerns of home ownership, such as maintenance and lawn care. Easy access to healthcare occurred through the presence of the onsite medical clinic, which specialized in geriatric medicine and provided visiting medical specialists. In addition to onsite nursing care and the assisted living facilities, Charlestown offered home healthcare.
In making the retirement community affordable, Erickson pioneered the 100 percent refundable entrance deposit, available at about equal to the value of a middle-class retiree's home. In 1992 an average apartment unit cost $94,430. Economies of scale provided affordability as well, with monthly fees within the means of middle-income seniors, at $890 for one person, plus an additional $350 for double occupancy. Residents paid for supplementary services, such as housekeeping, transportation, and home healthcare. As such, operating expenses, at $8,200 per resident per year, were much lower than other retirement communities.
SCL provided security by hiring a 24-hour security team and installing gates around the campus, allowing only family and friends of residents to enter the community. For health security, each bedroom and bathroom was outfitted with an emergency pull cord and each apartment door was equipped with a sentry latch. The latch would be turned up every night, if it remained up at noon the next day, because the resident had not caused the latch to fall by leaving the unit, someone would check into the well-being of the resident.
The Erickson Foundation formed in 1998 to initiate a new wellness program for preventive medicine through a health screening system. When completely developed, the portable Viva system would assess bone strength, balance, cardiac and lung function, muscle strength, driving skills, body composition and body weight, daily activity level, and psychosocial functioning.
By 2000, Charlestown was the largest continuing care retirement community in the United States, with 2,500 residents, and the waiting list grew to more than 1,300 interested retirees. Much of the growth and success of the community was due to the popularity of the 100 percent refundable entrance deposit, which prompted SCL to add more accommodations and services at Charlestown to meet demand. The large size of Charlestown became a unique facet of its success as it provided ample possibilities for social interaction simply by housing a large number of residents.
The 1990s: Charlestown a Prototype Retirement Community
The success of the Charlestown community led, unexpectedly, to the development of another facility in 1992, when the Ford Motor Company approached SCL to be a partner in the development of a continuing care community in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford Motor had searched the country for the best facility that would provide a model for Henry Ford Village, to be located on the site of Henry Ford's birthplace and early childhood years. SCL participated in the project as a joint venture of Ford Motor Land Development Corporation and Retirement and Health Services Corporation.
Groundbreaking on the $110 million project began in September 1992 and the first phase of independent living apartments opened a year later. After completion of the five-year project, Henry Ford Village accommodated more than 1,250 residents with 862 apartments, 130 assisted living apartments, and 120 nursing beds, being the largest such facility in Michigan. The community provided amenities like those at Charlestown, with a Towne Center and residential "neighborhoods."
Charlestown provided a prototype for company-owned retirement communities opened by SCL during the late 1990s. In developing sites for new retirement facilities, SCL chose locations based on the local population of senior citizens 75 years of age and older, looking at populations within a radius of ten miles of a potential site. The company focused its expansion along the Interstate 95 corridor, near the Atlantic coast in Chesapeake and New England states. In March 1995, Oak Crest Village opened in Parkville, Maryland, on an 85-acre site only 20 miles from Charlestown. As one of the fastest growing retirement communities in the country at this time, Oak Crest accommodated more than 2,000 residents by the fall of 1998.
SCL opened the first phase of two retirement communities in 1998. The $250 million Seabrook Village project, located on a 100-acre site in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, accommodated up to 920 residents in 650 apartments when it opened. The complete project encompassed three neighborhoods of 550 apartments each in four- to seven-story buildings. A 70,000-square-foot community center housed the main dining room, the medical center, and hobby and classrooms, while enclosed, climate-controlled walkways linked all buildings on the campus. SCL applied these same site design concepts at Greenspring Village in Springfield, Virginia, which opened in November 1998. The $312 million project accommodated 1,412 independent living apartments, 125 assisted living apartments, and 20 skilled nursing beds at the 108-acre site.
The company's advertisements addressed the concerns of retirees by emphasizing the ease of the retirement community lifestyle. In the New York Times advertising, taglines stated, "Seniors Walk Away from Houses," while the text promoted a "worry-free, maintenance-free lifestyle" and senior women were pictured lounging in a swimming pool. The advertisement highlighted the onsite medical center, fine and casual dining, college classes, and the neighborhood center.
ERC Building in Underserved Markets in Early 2000s
In early 2000 the company took the name Erickson Retirement Communities (ERC), replacing Senior Campus Living with a more distinct name that honored the company's founder. Supported with $300 million in financing from several private investors and partners, ERC continued to develop new retirement communities.
Riderwood Village opened with 200 residents in May 2000. Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, Riderwood offered one-bedroom and two-bedroom units and the entrance deposit for the site averaged $73,000 with monthly fees at $1,023. As development of the site continued, Riderwood Village accommodated 850 residents. Brooksby Village opened the following June in Peabody, Massachusetts, housing 150 residents, increasing to 650 residents by early 2003. Adding variety to community facilities based on resident input, ERC opened a pub at the Riderwood Village and a bistro with exhibition cooking at Brooksby Village.
ERC renamed its assisted-living and skilled nursing centers as Renaissance Gardens, distinguishing them more clearly from regular housing accommodations. Completed at Seabrook Village in the summer of 2001, the center allowed for changeable floor functions to accommodate the changing needs of nursing the elderly. Housed in a five-story building, each floor provided a sun porch, dining room, and recreation room. Renaissance Gardens at Seabrook Village offered 96 assisted living units and 80 private nursing care rooms. The facility housed doctors' offices and physical therapy rooms in an adjacent building. Cedar Crest Village opened in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, in August 2001, with 274 residents and a community building. ERC dedicated 130 acres of the 260-acre site for open space, to provide nature trails for public and resident use. When complete, the five-year development project would house up to 2,400 residents in 1,517 apartments, ranging in price from $138,000 to $398,000, 192 assisted living units, and 320 nursing beds. In addition to the usual amenities and facilities, Cedar Crest would feature a chapel and a convention hall. ERC promoted the property by transporting groups of potential customers to nearby Seabrook Village.
During this same period, ERC began construction on a $350 million retirement community in Novi, Michigan. ERC identified the area as an underserved market, with more than a half million people over the age of 65 within a 25-mile radius. When complete, Fox Run Village would provide 1,100 apartment units for independent living as well as skilled nursing and assisted living facilities for 400 residents. The community was intended for retirees with a monthly income of $1,000 to $2,500; deposits ranged from $77,000 to $297,000 per apartment unit. The community opened in the spring of 2003 as part of a five- to seven-year development process.
In April 2001 ERC announced the development of a retirement community on the site of the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania. In building Ann's Choice, ERC took advantage of the site as a Keystone Opportunity Zone for redevelopment, to receive state and local tax reductions for up to ten years. Allowing seniors age 62 years and older, the plan supported accommodations for as many as 1,500 independent living units if demand required it. The first phase of Ann's Choice opened in the late summer of 2003, upon completion of the medical center and main community facilities and 199 apartment units housing nearly 300 retirees.
Pending Plans and Projects
In 2002 ERC received approval to build Linden Ponds in Hingham, Massachusetts. The plan called for 2,000 independent and assisted living units and 324 skilled nursing beds. ERC began newspaper, television, and direct mail advertising in the fall of 2002 and opened an onsite marketing office in the summer of 2003. ERC expected construction to begin by the fall of 2003 and completion of the first phase to occur in late 2004.
In the spring of 2003 ERC sought approval to build a retirement community in Lincolnshire, Illinois. The proposal described campus housing of 1,538 independent living units in three neighborhoods of four to five structures from four to six stories high. Each neighborhood would have its own community center with health, dining, recreational, and business facilities. Renaissance Gardens would be housed in a six-story building containing 138 assisted living units and 236 skilled nursing beds. The community would accommodate up to 2,300 residents after completion of the five- to seven-year construction project.
Principal Divisions: Ann's Choice; Brooksby Village; Cedar Crest Village; Charlestown Retirement Community; Fox Run Village; Green Spring Village; Linden Ponds; Oak Crest Village; Retirement and Health Services Corporation; Riderwood Village; Seabrook Village.
Principal Competitors: Del Webb Corporation.