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Best Active Adult Design of 2023: Maintenance-Free ‘Midwestern Charm’ in Ohio

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The baby boomers are said to want close-knit community ties and plenty of their own space, but not every community can offer both. That is not the case for a Treplus community near Dayton, Ohio.

The active adult community is located inside a mixed-use development that includes a Costco, Cabela’s and Kroger, and all of its units have private entrances, luxurious touches and space for hosting friends and family. The 110-unit community, Dogwood Commons, carries plenty of “Midwestern charm,” according to Treplus. It is meant for older adults looking to downsize – but not too much – while remaining close to their loved ones while living a more maintenance-free lifestyle.

The community was designed in a rustic yet contemporary style, with shed roofs and mixed stone for siding. Residents get to enjoy their own private single-story luxury apartments ranging from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet, and the community has a wide variety of amenities, including “The Commons” community center and a garden for resident use.

The community’s design, coupled with the lifestyle it provides residents, helped it snag the top spot in the 2023 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards’ “Best Active Adult” category.

The Concept

The process for bringing Dogwood Commons to life began in 2018, when Treplus CEO Jane Arthur Roslovic was looking across Ohio for the company’s next project.

Early on, the project team landed on a master-planned development near Dayton called Cornerstone of Centerville. The development, which is located adjacent to a large apartment complex, also intended to set aside space for an active adult community.

Treplus was interested in the location given its proximity to the Dayton market and to the nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force base, as well as its trees, green areas and nearby shopping destinations. So Roslovic and her team met with the officials from the government of Centerville, and initial plans were laid.

“They ended up bringing people from planning and zoning, the city council and the mayor himself came up to Columbus, and toured three of our projects, and they got very excited about our coming down there,” Roslovic told Senior Housing News.

Archall Architects worked with Treplus on a design for the new community. A common theme among Treplus communities is ample use of natural light. With Dogwood Commons, the plan was to “create efficiency in construction and design” for the community while still allowing that natural light to come in from both sides, according to Archall Architects CEO Brad Parish.

The design the team landed on included single-story apartments with private entrances and oversized attached garages. Other touches included private patios, designer finishes with loft ceilings, large walk-in closets and storage and amenities and services older adults will want and use. Underpinning the design is a common area where residents can mingle.

The project was not without its challenges during the design phase. One hurdle was the topography of the location.

“We really had to work to organize the buildings in an artful way that still respects the natural contours for water management on the site,” Parish said. “This one was a difficult site to work with. But I think we worked with the engineers quite well, and came up with a great solution.”

However, Parish noted the topography worked to their advantage in a few ways as well.

“On the flip side some of the typography really helped us lend way to a different sort of exterior environment, sort of a balcony off the backside or a raised patio. It gave an opportunity to change the design from just a flat slab patio, like we typically would see, to more of an elevated view overtop of the landscape,” he said.

Another key component was ensuring a sense of community for residents. To accomplish this, amenities including the garden, walking trails and dog parks are located in close proximity to one another, and residents have access to all kinds of features that are open to the public as well.

“We bring in our own entertainment and amenities through our lifestyle coordinator, who works with our residents on providing things that they want to have happen on property,” Roslovic said. It’s not just our community … it’s truly contiguous to our site.”

All in all, the design phase from beginning to end took about 18 months, and construction crews broke ground on it in the spring of 2021.

The Construction

Like many senior living projects ongoing in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dogwood Commons ran into some delays related to construction. Supply chains were an initial issue, as they were across the industry in 2021.

At the time, Parish said Archall was having to order certain equipment as long as a year ahead of construction to keep time frames.

“We got the very last transformer in the state of Ohio at that point in time,” Roslovic said. “We were really panicked about it because we did not want to get shut down.”

Another challenge during that time was lumber, the price of which was “going berserk,” she added.

Still, supply chain woes did not slow progress on Dogwood Commons for long. Builder Rockford Homes completed construction on the project only a few months behind schedule.

The community had a soft opening in 2022 when it first began to take move-ins, before its more official grand opening in 2023.

The Completion

Today, Dogwood Commons stands as a representation of Treplus’ growing and evolving active adult model.

Each unit is designed with universal design principles such as wider hallways, zero-step fixtures, task lighting, elevated outlets and lever door handles. Units also have a half-bath and a den space “for maximum livability” and access to natural light. The units also carry wood-style flooring, granite countertops and decorative window treatments.

Helping to unify Dogwood Commons is “The Commons,” a 5,000 square foot community center with a business center, gym, yoga room, catering kitchen, pet spa, billiards room with liquor lockers, a patio with a grilling station and space for outdoor activities.

Prior to Dogwood Commons completion and subsequent soft opening, Treplus saw “significant resident interest” in the project and 30% of its 110-units were pre-leased before the first phase of construction was completed.

Private entrances and attached garages to resident’s homes were vital during the sales process, as Treplus communities did not have to undergo the same restrictions on visitors that larger congregate properties did. At the same time, a strong housing market incentivized older adults to sell their homes, providing another tailwind.

Another success for Dogwood Commons has been residents moving to the community from other neighboring communities, according to Julie Stein, Treplus Communities vice president of marketing.

Looking ahead, Treplus Communities is building another project in Grove City, Ohio, and using the lessons it learned from the Dogwood Commons, including marketing strategies to garner initial excitement.. As a result, the community saw full occupancy for its first phase of construction, followed by 60% for the second phase, and the third phase is nearing 40% pre-lease.

Treplus Communities is also beginning the process of expanding its next communities into the Cincinnati, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana regions, both of which are noted to be high growth and hold potential for active adult.

“We really need to build on that momentum. Especially with this project in Dayton, we see a real need. And with the growth of both Cincinnati and Indianapolis … we’re excited to go to those markets,” Roslovic said.

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